Wednesday June 19, 2024

Referendum-2020 for Khalistan

By Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat
September 18, 2018

A US-based group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has planned Referendum-2020 in support of a separate state of Khalistan, throwing the Indian establishment in panic. According to SFJ legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, they will certainly build Khalistan. Reports have revealed that most gurdwaras in the US and Canada have started campaigns for the referendum. Pannun, as per the Indian media, says that the SFJ would hold an unofficial referendum in 2020 and would follow the matter after taking into account the response it gets. If required, the SFJ will seek the United Nation’s intervention to help the community conduct a referendum for a separate Sikh state. “If Scotland can have a referendum to stay with Britain or not, why can’t we have one for Punjab?” questions Pannun. Asked about the boundary of the separate state, he said it would be the present boundary of the state of Punjab in India.

On the other hand, Dr Amarjit Singh, the president of the Khalistan Affairs Centre, wants the new state at all costs. He stated: “Why are we giving the option by way of a referendum? We need Khalistan because the Sikhs have been suffering since the rule of (Maharaja) Ranjit Singh (the last Sikh ruler) got over.”

Another report highlights the referendum as such: "The referendum asks Sikhs living across the world to build a consensus in favour of Khalistan and sign a declaration for the formation of a sovereign and independent country in India-occupied Punjab on the basis that Sikhs are the indigenous people of Punjab and have a historical homeland, are a separate religion and have the right to self-determination." The referendum also asks Sikhs to reject article 25(b)(2) of Constitution that says Sikhs are a part of the Hindu religion.

The Indian security establishment is deeply worried as the Khalistan idea is generating deep interest in East Punjab mostly inhabited by Sikhs. It believes there is a wave of radicalization among young Sikhs, who are moving towards another independence movement since 1984. The Indian security agencies have claimed of busting six Khalistan terror modules and arresting 23 terrorists with a small arsenal of weapons. They believe that the Khalistan movement was regenerated following the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Faridkot's Bargari village on October 12, 2015. More than 150 such incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib have occurred in East Punjab, deeply upsetting the population. The consequent protests and demonstrations have been poorly tackled by the police and agencies, increasing the chasm between the Sikhs and Indian state. Hindu right wing across the country is also stoking the Sikh radicalism as saffron outfits, including the RSS and Shiv Sena, have landed in East Punjab in large numbers. But most importantly the Sikh diaspora in Western countries and Sikh population in East Punjab has not forgotten the atrocities of the Indian Army at Akali Takht in Amritsar in 1984 and the massacre of thousands of Sikhs in New Delhi following the killing of Indira Gandhi.

Other reasons why Sikhs support Khalistan is the Anand marriage act that is still not applied on Sikhs, who are still forced to marry under Hindu marriage act, Sikh political prisoners are not released even after they have completed their punishment and police injustice. The police are accused of killing hundreds of innocent Sikhs extrajudically, whose mass graves were also found. It is also advocated that the majority Sikh state would foster Sikhism in a better manner.

The Indian establishment fears if Punjab decides to exercise its right to self-determination, many other Indian states will also decide to self govern their territories, leading to the eventual disintegration of the state of India, which was never a single country due to various cultures and traditions.