Tuesday September 26, 2023

Pressure on Canada to stop ‘Khalistan Referendum’ failed, India confirms

September 24, 2022
Representatives of the Khalistan Movement in Canada. — Photo by author
Representatives of the Khalistan Movement in Canada. — Photo by author

LONDON: Narendra Modi’s government has conveyed protest and ‘concerns’ to the Canadian government against participation of tens of thousands of Canadian Sikhs in last week’s Khalistan Referendum organised in the city of Brampton by the pro-Khalistan group, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ).

Geo and The News had reported exclusively last week that the relations between India and Canada are on the edge after India was told that any peaceful and legitimate activity by the Canadian Sikhs will not be stopped and the Canadian government will not get involved.

Now, India’s External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi has said India has raised serious concerns on the Khalistan Referendum issue, which was held on September 18 in Brampton, Ontario, drawing huge crowds of Sikhs in a big show of power.

India’s External Affairs Ministry termed the Khalistan Referendum conducted by the SFJ a “farcical exercise” and added that it had conveyed concerns to Canada about the use of its territory by politically motivated “extremist elements”.

Arindam Bagchi said India has deeply objected that “politically motivated exercises by extremist elements” are allowed to take place in a friendly country like Canada. “We would term it as a farcical exercise. A farcical exercise was held by extremists and radical elements supporting the so-called Khalistan Referendum in Canada,” Bagchi said.

He said India has taken up the issue with the Canadian authorities and they reiterated respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. “The matter has been taken up with the Canadian authorities through diplomatic channels. The government of Canada has reiterated that they respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India and they will not recognise the so-called referendum which is taking place in Canada,” the MEA spokesperson said.

“However, we find it deeply objectionable that politically motivated exercises by extremist elements are allowed to take place in a friendly country. You all are aware of the history of violence in this regard,” he added.

Bagchi said the government of India will continue to press the government of Canada on this matter. India has condemned the Khalistan Referendum held at Brampton, Ontario in Canada. The ballot exercise was organised by pro-Khalistan group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ).

The Indian government had hoped that not many will come to vote in the referendum but the video evidence that emerged from the Gore Community Centre showing queues of men and women aligning up for the referendum, stretched to over five kilometres.

This correspondent had reported exclusively that the Indian government was very upset at the referendum. Now, the Indian press has confirmed that the Indian government sent several diplomatic communications to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to stop the Khalistan Referendum but the Canadian government replied to India that “in Canada, the individuals have the right to assemble and to express their views so long as they do so peacefully and lawfully.”

The Indian media has confirmed that the Narendra Modi government sent three diplomatic messages to Global Affairs Canada - OTT/POL/453/1/2022, August 31, 2022, OTT/POL/103/01/2022, September 14 and OTT/Pol/453/01/2022 - asking the Trudeau government to stop the “illegal referendum”.

The Hindustan Times reported that the Narendra Modi government is “closely monitoring the rise of Sikh radicalisation, attacks and vandalisation of symbols of Hindu religion in the UK and Canada and evaluating various options to send a terse message to the two members of the Commonwealth community.”

The paper said it is also watching how the British security agencies are turning a blind eye towards fund collection by the pro-Khalistan Sikhs to “fan the separatism movement”. The paper wrote: “The Modi government has decided not to take anything lying down and will respond in kind to these anti-India developments in the two countries.”

The Indian media has attacked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for denouncing Russia’s planned “referendums” in the regions of Ukraine but for turning a “blind eye to so-called referendum” organised by the “Sikhs for Justice” organisation in Brampton, Ontario.

India has denounced the Canadian government also for not denouncing the Khalistan Referendum and its organsier Sikhs for Justice – an organisation banned in India but legally operating all over the world.

Last week, Geo News reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has said it cannot stop the Canadian Sikhs from expressing their views through the Khalistan Referendum voting as long as the process is peaceful, democratic and within the legal parameters of the Canadian laws.

The Canadian government has said that the Canadian nationals have every freedom to express their views in every manner possible as long as it follows the Canadian laws on the right to freedom of expression and right to free speech and assembly.

India had tried to apply diplomatic pressure on the Canadian government ahead of the Khalistan Referendum voting on September 18 at the Gore Meadows Community Centre in Brampton, Ontario.

When the voting took place on September 18, it completely defied the view that Khalistan sentiment was relegated to a fringe element. In scenes never seen before, more than 100,000 stood in queues to vote for the Khalistan Referendum and were successful in doing so. The SFJ has said that a new date will be announced soon to accommodate those who were unable to cast their votes for the non-binding referendum.