Melbourne, Jan. 14 (ANI): In what has been termed as an "attack on religion", a Sikh temple or gurudwara was allegedly torched by arsonists in Melbourne, placing further strain on diplomatic relations already damaged by a series of racial attacks on Indian students.
Early on Wednesday, the partially built Nanaksar Thath Isher Darbar temple located in Melbourne's outer suburbs - home to a congregation of Sikhs - is believed to have been set on fire with the use of molotov cocktails.
The Australian quoted temple elder Satnam Singh as saying: "This is an attack on religion, this is very bad. This should not have been done, this is a God house, everybody who comes here prays to God."
Walking through the blackened interior, Singh said the fire was "very, very personal".
When asked whether he believed the attack to be race-related, Singh said: "Yes, attack on Indians."
However, detectives in charge of the investigation are yet to be establish whether race or religion had motivated the arsonists.
"At this stage there is nothing to suggest it is (race-related) other than the fact that it happened to a temple," Detective Constable Paul Stow said.
Constable Stow confirmed that "a number of items were located to suggest accelerant was used".
Despite initial police reports indicating that a group of teens had lit "a couple of small fires" in piles of rubbish in the temple, Constable Stow said police believed the arson to be a "deliberately lit fire" rather than a bonfire that had burned out of control.
Victorian police have been criticised and caricatured in India for being too quick to rule out racism as a motive for attacks on Indian students.
It is believed two people were seen leaving the temple near midnight.
One worshipper said he was informed by police that three molotov cocktails and a jerry can containing petrol were found inside the temple. (ANI)