Over 11,000 vote for Khalistan Referendum in Brisbane amid cyber attacks

Voting was disrupted thrice as electronic online system came under attack by suspected Indian hackers

Murtaza Ali Shah
March 19, 2023
Voters at the voting centre in Brisbane. — Author
Voters at the voting centre in Brisbane. — Author

BRISBANE: 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, 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 government 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-month-old son Pavittar Singh on December 5, 1992, by the Indian police force in Haryana.

The SFJ had organised the second phase of the referendum in Brisbane, after the first phase of voting in Melbourne at the end of January this year saw a massive turnout of over 50,000. 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 the Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC) voting on the Question of “Should Indian Governed Punjab be an Independent Country?”.

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 also been held 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 130,000 in 2016. According to the census 2021, the number of Hindus in Australia stood at around 700,000. The highest number of Sikhs live in Melbourne, followed by Sydney and Brisbane.