Just out of his teens, Vishal Jood, left his home in Haryana’s Kurukshetra four years back to pursue his dreams of a bright career in Australia. But he ended up convicted on three charges after a brawl with the Sikh community in his host country, which he says was to protect the honour of his motherland — India. “No doubt, all this has hurt my career and future prospects, but I can’t stand disrespect to the nation and the Tricolour. Everyone should respect their country,” said Vishal Jood, now returned back in his village in Haryana following intervention by the Indian government.
Son of a farmer, Mr. Jood was working as a stocks manager in a private firm in Australia for the past two years after completing a diploma course in business and management when a series of incidents, coinciding with the farmers agitation in India led to his arrest by the New South Wales police in April this year ona dozen charges.
Eight of these charges, including racial hatred, were later dropped.
It all started with a farmers rally at Quakers Hill in Sydney in December 2020, when a group of Sikh men tired to “trample” the Tricolour and raised pro-Khalistan slogans, Mr. Jood told The Hindu over phone. “I managed to snatch the flag from them and unfurled it, following which they surrounded and assaulted me. It did not end here and was followed by numerous threats to me on social media,” he said.
On Republic Day this year, an attempt was made to disrupt a Tiranga rally held by Mr. Jood and his friends in Sydney, he claimed.
This was followed by an attack on February 14 at another Tiranga car rally. “At the end of the rally, a large number of men armed with baseball bats and golf sticks attacked me at Harris Park. But I managed to snatch their baseball bat and ran away after breaking the windscreen of one of their cars,” said Mr. Jood. He was also injured his left arm in the attack.
Naseeb Singh, president, Akhil Bharatiya Ror Mahasabha, said initial reports depicted Vishal as “villain” for targetting the Sikhs, but the perception changed after his video unfurling the Tricolour went viral.
Support pours in
Soon support from many quarters, especially Rajputs poured in, and pressure was mounted on State political leadership to intervene with growing agitation across the sSate seeking release of Mr. Jood. Mr. Singh said Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal and Karnal MP Sanjay Bhatia and Kurukshetra MP Nayab Singh met the Union Ministers to facilitate Mr. Jood’s release.
Alex Hawke’s tweet
Following his return, Australia’s Immigration and Citizenship Minister Alex Hawke, in a tweet, said that “attempts to undermine Australia’s social cohesion will not be tolerated” hinting that Mr. Jood’s act was seen as one causing communal disharmony. A news item by IndiaLink NEWS, shared by Mr. Hawke on his Twitter handle, said: “It is believed that there was lobbying undertaken at very senior levels in the Indian government to secure the release of Vishal Jood due to political pressure from the ruling BJP in the state from which he hails.”
Returning to hero’s welcome to India a week ago, Mr. Jood said he was reluctant to be part of the road show fearing a backlash from Sikhs, especially in view of the Singhu border murder case. He said he grew up with Sikhs being in majority in his locality in Kurukshetra’s Govindgarh and lamented being labelled as anti-Sikh.
Busy meeting people who had supported him during his stint in jail, Mr. Jood said his Australia dream seemed over and he had no plans to go back at least for a couple of years, but was ready to serve his country in any capacity.