Over 31,000 Australian Sikhs vote for Khalistan Referendum amid India objections

Murtaza Ali Shah
The picture shows Australian Sikhs voting for Khalistan Referendum in Sydney. — Author
The picture shows Australian Sikhs voting for Khalistan Referendum in Sydney. — Author

SYDNEY: Over 31,000 Sikhs voted for Khalistan Referendum in Sydney amid stiff resistance from the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal campaign to stop Sikhs from holding the third phase of the referendum in Australia.

The Sydney phase of the Khalistan Referendum was organised to mark the anniversary of the 1984 Operation Blue Star Amritsar Genocide when Indian authorities killed thousands of Sikhs during a bloodied attack on Sri Harmandir Sahib (popularly known as the Golden Temple).

Thousands of Sikh men and women queued outside Shaheed General Shabeg Singh Khalistan Referendum Voting Centre on Sterling Road, Michinbury, from 9am and cast their votes till 5pm under the supervision of the independent Punjab Referendum Commission which is overseeing the worldwide referendum voting, commissioned by Pro-Khalistan separatist group, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ).

Two weeks before the Khalistan Referendum voting in Sydney, PM Modi was in Australia where he met the Australian government authorities and urged them to stop Sikhs from going ahead with voting but the Australian government told the Indian prime minister that the whole of Canberra respected India’s position and it was not in a position to stop its own citizens from expressing their legal and democratic right.

Pro-Khalistan SFJ booked Khalistan Referendum voting at four different venues but all venues ended up cancelling the booking citing security and organisational issues as Hindutva groups, backed by the Indian government, raised false alarms of potential violence between Sikh and Hindutva groups with the centres.

The picture shows Australian Sikhs voting for Khalistan Referendum in Sydney. — Author
The picture shows Australian Sikhs voting for Khalistan Referendum in Sydney. — Author

Large-sized banners and posters hung outside the venue with the following slogans: “Khalistan Referendum Australia, Shimla Capital secession of Punjab from India”; “1984 Sikh Genocide, 100+ Sikhs burnt alive in furnaces by India’s Hindu mobs”; “Khalistan Referendum, the last battle to liberate Punjab”; “Khalistan Referendum – Punjab – Shimla Capital”.

The SFJ General Counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said: “Sydney Khalistan Referendum voting is a prodigious journey of Sikh Sovereigntists from June 1984 defending Sri Akal Takht Sahib With ‘bombs-bullets’ to ‘ballot-voting’ in 2023 to liberate Punjab from Indian occupation.”

Pannu said the Sydney turnout was a reflection of an extraordinarily growing global support for the liberation of Punjab from Indian occupation.

Dr Bakhshish Singh Sandhu, President Council of Khalistan said: “Sikhs in their thousands in Sydney have sent a clear message that they want liberation of Punjab from the Indian occupation, in the same way Hindus got freedom from the English Raaj. We are under occupation of India and the only solution is liberation. We will liberate Punjab to save Punjab from India, to preserve our values, religion and culture. Tens of thousands of Sikhs have taken part in the Khalistan Referendum all over the world to express their democratic right in a peaceful manner.”

Khalistan Referendum’s voting in Sydney was the third phase of the Australian campaign. The first phase was held in Melbourne in January this year when over 50,000 Sikhs turned out to cast their votes. The second phase was held in Brisbane in March this year where more than 11,000 Sikhs had voted.

Throughout, the Indian government has campaigned using diplomatic pressure to get the voting but failed.

The voting in the referendum, which started in October 2021 in the UK's seven cities, has so far been held also 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 of 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.