Sunday Aug 28, 2022
TORONTO: After creating strong waves in the United Kingdom in November 2021, the Khalistan Referendum — a community-sponsored plebiscite of an international advocacy group, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) — is now rocking Canadian politics where the voting is going to start on September 18.
Khalistan Referendum campaign — in which Sikhs are asked to answer the question "Should Indian governed Punjab be an independent country?" — has drawn fierce opposition from New Delhi, Indian media and pro-India segments of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs).
While Indian media and NRIs have been voicing their opposition, the Indian government has been pro-actively labelling and equating the unofficial referendum on Khalistan as “terrorism” and has declared SFJ — the proponent of the referendum — as an illegal organisation under the controversial Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) of India.
Ahead of September 18, Khalistan Referendum voting in Toronto, pro-Khalistan activists are actively holding truck rallies with Khalistan banners, plastering mega billboards, signs and distributing the promotional material at Gurdwaras in Brampton — the heavily Sikh town around Greater Toronto Area. The voting will take place in the government-owned and operated facility The Gore Meadow Community Centre, Brampton.
Just as it happened in the UK, Khalistan Referendum activities in Canada have similarly irked the pro-India factions in Canada who, following the Indian government's stance, are labelling the referendum as anti-India terrorism and wish a ban on Sikh secessionist activities from Canadian soil, despite the fact that Canadian Charter of Freedoms and Rights protects the non-violent expression of all political opinions including seeking secession through a referendum.
So far, the voting in Khalistan Referendum which started on October 31, 2021 from London, UK, has taken place in several towns across UK, Switzerland and Italy and approximately 450,000 Sikhs have cast their votes.
The Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC), a panel of non-aligned experts on referendums and direct democracy, is supervising the voting procedure to ensure transparency and compliance with international standards of balloting.
The September 18 voting centre for Khalistan Referendum in Toronto, Canada is named after Shaheed Harjinder Singh Parha to honour the young pro-Khalistan Sikh who went back to India from Canada to participate in the then ongoing armed struggle for Khalistan in the wake of the Indian Army’s June 1984 attack on the Golden Temple. In a staged police encounter, Indian forces extra-judicially killed Parha in 1988.