Sikhs rally for Khalistan Referendum in Canada

Our Correspondent
A long trail of cars drive during a rally in support of the Khalistan movement. — Photo by reporter
A long trail of cars drive during a rally in support of the Khalistan movement. — Photo by reporter

TORONTO: Canadian Sikhs registered a new record in support of the Khalistan movement by taking out a car rally, consisting of more than 2,000 vehicles, that stretched to several kilometres.

The Khalistan Referendum voting will be held on September 18 at Gore Meadows Recreation Centre in Brampton but the large-scale activity has already started in full swing.

Videos that have gone viral show a large queue of cars decorated with thousands of Khalistan flags from Malton, Ontario, in support of Khalistan and the upcoming referendum vote. The videos show a long lineup of Khalistan supporters, reminiscent of the recent Canadian truckers' protests called “Freedom Convoy”.

The September 18 voting has been organised by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), an international human rights advocacy group spearheading the campaign for the group’s right to self-determination.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, General Counsel to SFJ and its official spokesperson, said the Canadian Sikhs had shown where they stand in their demand for the creation of Khalistan.

“Canadian Sikhs have made a new record by coming out in their thousands for the car rally stretched over 5kms. This is a new phenomenon and the dawn of a new awakening in the third-generation Sikhs born and raised in the West. It’s the Sikh youth who are now spearheading the campaign for Khalistan. The September 18 voting is several days away but the enthusiasm is unmatched. This is a nightmare for the Hindutva extremist Modi administration,” said Pannun.

The spokesperson added that Sikhs are asking for the right of self-determination which is one of the fundamental rights of all people guaranteed in the UN Charter and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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 as an illegal organisation under the controversial Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Ahead of September 18 referendum, pro-Khalistan activists are actively holding truck rallies with banners, plastering mega billboards, signs and distributing promotional material at Gurdwaras in Brampton.

So far, the voting in the referendum which started on October 31, 2021, in 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, 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 the referendum is named after Shaheed Harjinder Singh Parha to honour the young pro-Khalistan Sikh. He had gone 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. Indian forces extra-judicially killed Parha in 1988 in a staged police encounter.