LONDON: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to repeal three controversial farm laws against which farmers have protested for over a year after seeing tens of thousands of Sikhs in Europe and America coming out in protest against the BJP government and then huge participation by Sikhs in the ongoing Khalistan Referendum campaign, according to the Indian media and intelligence reports. Intelligence sources in India, according to Indian reports, have confirmed that the BJP govt was rattled at seeing large queues of Sikhs in the UK cities voting for Khalistan during the referendum campaign, organised by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) group, which is campaigning for the creation of a separate Sikh homeland.
Since its start in London around a month ago outside the UK parliament, the Khalistan Referendum campaign has managed to bring out tens of thousands of Sikhs at polling stations across the UK. Just this Sunday (21 November) alone, over 20,000 Sikhs showed up to vote at the polling stations set up in Leicester, Coventry and Derby, while last Sunday, Birmingham polling station saw lines of voters stretched to several city blocks.
India’s Economic Times reported on Sunday that assessments by intelligence agencies about “growing role of radical elements” in protests was one of the factors that led the government to repeal the three farm laws. It said that Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), banned for anti-India secessionist movement, was “mainly behind instigating farmers” in Delhi and Punjab.
The US-based SFJ supports secession of Punjab and creation of Khalistan. Founded and headed by lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the group was banned by the Indian govt in 2019 while its office bearers were declared as terrorists. However, internationally the group is seen as a legitimate human rights advocacy group and it operates freely following international norms.
Geo reported last week that India’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval raised with the UK government the issue of its reluctance to take action against SFJ for “trying to promote secessionism” among the Indian diaspora.
"SFJ is luring protesters to indulge in anti-national activities using money. It has been making calls to the people in Punjab and Chandigarh to join the protests," a senior official told the Economic Times. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in a statement congratulated the protesting farmers for bringing to its knees the BJP government. He said the Indian govt was involved in massive fake news against the SFJ because it knows that the sentiments for Khalistan are real and anyone who demands Khalistan is targeted through fake news and Indian lobbying internationally. “This is a massive victory for Sikh farmers. The Khalistan Referendum campaign will continue and we will not bow before Indian lies. The turnout has exposed the Indian lies against us but we are not surprised because India has been involved in systematic genocide of Sikh religion and culture.”
A section of pro-BJP press has criticised the Modi government for capitulating to forces who believed in enforcing their will through naked street power and to the Kahlistanis active outside India.
The BJP government has said that the historic protests by farmers against the Indian govt had massive support of the Khalistanis from the UK, Europe and America and singled out SFJ and its powerful campaign within the Sikh communities.
A senior government source in India said: “The government chose to maintain peace in the country by pushing the laws through. This was a decision between two bad situations (pushing the laws through and risking Khalistani elements creating fissures and looking weak by repealing the laws) and the government chose to back down, so the separatist movement was not revived using this law."
The voting for the Khalistan referendum had begun on 31st of last month in London in which over 30,000 Sikhs participated. Sikhs massively participated in the next two phases of Khalistan referendum held in the UK on 7th and 14th of this month.
The referendum for Sikh separate homeland will also be held in the US, Canada, Australia and the Indian region of Punjab, soon. The voting in Geneva for the Khalistan referendum will be held on the 10th of next month.
Active participation by Sikh diaspora in pro farmer rallies in UK, USA, Canada and Europe, spirited participation by the Sikhs in Khalistan referendum in the face of reprisal from Indian High Commission in the form of cancellation of visas, UK’s turning down of Indian demand to put a stop on Khalistan Referendum, an activity which clearly is aimed at challenging India’s territorial integrity and dismemberment of the country, and thus far Canada’s refusal to declare SFJ as “terrorist organization” for running a secessionist campaign, are some of the most recent developments which forced Modi to repeal the farm laws in order to appease the Sikh community and hopefully, at minimum freeze and at best reverse, the popularity of Khalistan referendum among Sikhs of all ages and background.
What perhaps has added to Indian worries is the fact that a good number of voters in the ongoing Khalistan Referendum voting are young college and university students, indicating the penetration of Khalistan movement among a section of the Sikh community which was not known for its support of Khalistan, while at the same time completely debunking Indian narrative that Khalistan is espoused by few, fringe and disgruntled Sikhs.