LONDON: Thousands of Sikhs across the United Kingdom took part in a referendum for an independent Sikh homeland, Khalistan, at the Queen Elizabeth Centre near the British parliament on Sunday — the day when Indian premier Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 for ordering Operation Blue Star in a bid to curb the Sikh movement.
According to British media reports, the voting organsied by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), started at 9am and continued till 6pm under the supervision and monitoring of a non-aligned panel of direct democracy experts, the Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC).Thousands who took part in the voting process responded to the question: “Should Indian-governed Punjab Be An Independent Country?”
Chartered buses from more than 100 Gurdwaras transported voters to the Queen Elizabeth Centre where large queues formed throughout the day as eager voters aimed to get into the hall to cast their votes. More than 200 Sikhs volunteered for the day.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said the SFJ is an international human rights advocacy group that spearheads the campaign for Sikhs’ right to self-determination, which is one of the fundamental rights of all people guaranteed in the UN Charter.
He said India had propagated for long that only a few dozen Sikhs were behind the Khalistan movement but the participation by thousands of people in India had shown to the world that Khalistan had the support of tens of millions of Sikhs across the world.
Pannun said that the findings of the referendum will be shared with the United Nations and other international bodies to create a wider consensus.
British Sikh human rights activist Paramjeet Singh Pamma, who had been at the center of the controversy between India and the UK over his extradition case, said that Sikhs have showed up to vote in the referendum, in thousands, to express their “anger” at the Indian government’s actions.
Pamma, who has been acting as the UK Coordinator for Khalistan Referendum, further stated that the successful participation showed that Sikhs will never forget what India has done to them to annihilate their identity and history. He said that Sikhs have realized that their salvation lies only when they live in an independent homeland called Khalistan.
“Today, thousands of Sikhs have exercised their democratic right for independence from India. Sikhs will gain independence from India and that will happen at any cost. This is our birthright and we will get our right to freedom under the internationally recognised laws,” said Pamma.
He said that after the UK, the referendum would take place in other countries including the US, Canada, Australia, and the region of Punjab.
Dupinderjit Singh, who has been actively involved in the Khalistan activism for decades now, said that the Punjab Referendum is the voice of Sikhs from all over the world.
“We have shown to the world today that our voice cannot be suppressed.”
A leading Sikh activist, Gurcharan Singh said that “India is a fascist state which believes in the supremacy of Hindus only and doesn’t tolerate other religious minorities”.
He said that the Indian government spent millions of dollars to stop this referendum from taking place but added that the resilience of Sikhs had prevailed. He said thousands came out to register their support for an independent homeland, Khalistan.
The organisers said that although it was a non-governmental and non-binding referendum, the result will be used as the basis for the Sikh community to request an official binding vote from the United Nations on establishing the Indian-governed region of Punjab as an independent homeland for the indigenous people, of whom Sikhs are the single largest group.
A week before the referendum, the SFJ released a new map of India showing not just Punjab but Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and several districts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh as part of Khalistan as well.
The new map depicts that the area will be cut off from India and made into the Sikh country “Khalistan”.
In Rajasthan, far-flung Bundi and Kota have also been counted as Khalistan. It has been claimed that these parts will also be cut off from India.