India’s push to stop Khalistan Referendum in Australia faces roadblock

Since SFJ announced to hold Khalistan Referendum in Melbourne, Indian govt has used diplomatic pressure against Sikh organisers

Murtaza Ali Shah
— Provided by reporter
— Provided by reporter

MELBOURNE: The government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has failed to convince or force the Australian authorities to stop the Khalistan Referendum voting taking place at the Federation Square here where tens of thousands of Sikhs are expected to gather to cast their votes.

Since pro-Khalistan group the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) announced to hold a referendum in Melbourne, the Indian government has used diplomatic pressure against Sikh organisers of the campaign to stop the voting process but that has not worked as the organisers have complied with all legal requirements but the anger and frustration of Indian government are reflected in a press release issued by Indian High Commission in India.

The High Commission of India has said that “pro-Khalistan elements are stepping up their activities in Australia, actively aided and abetted by members of proscribed terrorist organisations such as the Sikhs for Justice and other inimical agencies from outside Australia” and that this has been “evident for some time”.

The Indian mission added that it “strongly condemns the deeply disturbing incidents of vandalization, including of three Hindu temples in Melbourne in recent weeks. The frequency and impunity with which the vandals appear to be operating are alarming, as are the graffiti which includes the glorification of anti-Indian terrorists. These incidents are a clear attempt to sow hatred and division”.

It goes on to say that “our concerns have repeatedly been shared with the Australian Government, both by the High Commission and our Consulates in Australia and by our Government with the Australian High Commission in Delhi”.

The press release further confirms how seriously the Indian government has been trying to halt the Khalistan Referendum voting but failed to do so as local Sikhs were able to gain the support of several parliamentarians, human rights groups and local communities who campaigned that a peaceful community like Sikhs cannot be stopped from exercising their voting rights.

“It has been highlighted to the Australian Government to ensure the safety and security of members of the Indian community and their properties in Australia, and to not allow the use of Australian territory for activities detrimental to the territorial integrity, security, and national interest of India,” it lamented.

The Sikhs for Justice founder and general counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said that since the 1990s successive Indian regimes have been using their economic power to label the Khalistan movement as terrorism but 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?”. 

He said that this leaves no room for India to beat the old drum of equating Khalistan with violence.

“Khalistan is a political opinion as recognized by governments of Australia, UK, EU, Canada, and the USA while the Modi regime is still using diplomatic channels to stop Referendum voting,” Pannun stated.

He said that the Indian High Commission had made claims of attacks on Hindu temples in Melbourne to divert attention from several attacks on Khalistan Referendum banners and respected Sikh figures.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said the group had no information that the recent acts of vandalism were linked to the Khalistan Referendum. The Sikh leader released CCTV footage showing vandalism of Khalistan banners in areas of Melbourne.

The video released by Pannun showed men vandalising Shaheed Bhindranwale and Khalistan posters. 

“For the last month, these Hindu supremacists backed by the Modi regime are vandalising Shaheed Bhindranwale and Khalistan Referendum banners,” Pannun said in his video statement.

Pannun said that the men linked to vandalism on holy Sikh figures were from hardline Hindutva groups, backed by India, defacing the posters and pictures.