BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA: Mar 19 (APP): More than 11,000 Sikhs took part in the second phase of Khalistan Referendum voting at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre amid a massive wave of Indian cyber security mercenary attacks on the electronic voting machines.
There was a disruption in the voting thrice as the electronic online voting system came under a massive cyber security attack by suspected Indian hackers.
The first attack was launched – and the system shut down – within 30 minutes of the start of the voting. The system was restored within 30 minutes. For the second and third cyber-attacks, the system was restored within 20 minutes each time.
Pro-Khalistan secessionist group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), which organised the referendum voting, said it suspected that the Indian state-backed hackers were involved in the planned attack. The SFJ said this was not the first time that the Indian state had done so as similar attempts have been made during previous voting phases across Europe. It said there was evidence available that the Indian govt was involved in cyber-attacks against the Sikhs.
Large banners in support of Khalistan and Sikhs rights hung outside the Exhibition centre reading “Khalistan Referendum, Punjab, Shimla Capital” and “Khalistan Referendum, Secession of Punjab from India”.
The March 19 “Battlefield – Brisbane” Khalistan Referendum Voting Centre was dedicated to Shaheed Bhai Harmeet Singh Bhaowal and Shaheed Bibi Baljinder Kaur who were bombed to death along with their nine months old son Pavittar Singh on December 05, 1992, by the Indian Police forces in Haryana.
The SFJ had organised the second phase of referendum in the Australian city of Brisbane after the first phase of voting in Melbourne at the end of January this year which saw a massive turnout of over 50,000 Sikhs. The third phase and last leg of the Australian phase is set to take place in Sydney in June this year.
The SFJ has organised the voting under the supervision of Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC) voting on the Question of “Should Indian Governed Punjab Be An Independent Country?”.
The SFJ’s General Counsel and New York based attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said that Australian Sikhs have responded robustly to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to stop Khalistan Referendum voting in Australian cities.
Pannun commented: “The global Khalistan Referendum voting is setting the countdown for the final battle for liberation of Punjab from the Indian occupation.”
Dr Bakhshish Singh Sandhu, President Council of Khalistan, said that in one after another city in the West, Sikhs were coming out in their thousands to cast their votes to express their desire for the creation of an independent state of Khalistan for Sikhs. He said that the Indian Hindutva state has denied even basic human rights to Sikhs in India and that was the reason that Sikhs, living outside of India, were expressing themselves defiantly, seeking freedom of Punjab from Indian occupation.
The voting in the referendum, which started in October 2021 in the UK’s seven cities, has so far been held also in Switzerland, Italy and two Canadian centres.
According to the 2021 census, around 230,000 Sikhs live in Australia but local Sikhs say the real number is close to 300,000. The number of Sikhs in Australia was 130000 in 2016. According to the census of 2021, the number of Hindus in Australia stood at around 700000. The highest number of Sikhs live in Melbourne, followed by Sydney and Brisbane.
Prior to Sunday’s voting, there were tensions as dozens of pro-Khalistan Sikhs rounded up and forced closure of India’s honorary consulate in Brisbane and the Australian government issued an updated travel advisory advising its citizens against travelling to India due to a “high risk of violence” in certain states, including Punjab.
Few days before the March 19 voting organized by pro-Khalistan secessionist group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), the Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese the recent alleged incidents of attacks on temples in Australia as well as pro-Khalistani activities in that country.
It’s understood that the Indian PM Modi raised the issue with the Australian govt after over 50000 Sikhs turned up to vote for Khalistan Referendum in Melbourne for the first phase of Referendum at the end of January this year.
It’s understood that the Indian government is not happy with the recent Australian travel advisory cautioning its Citizens planning a trip to India to exercise a high degree of caution.
The Australian government has also urged its citizens not to travel to Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the India-Pakistan border (except the Atari-Wagah border crossing) due to the danger of armed clashes.