More than 200,000 Canadian Sikhs participated in the Khalistan Referendum held in Surrey, British Columbia. This referendum, dedicated to Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was tragically assassinated by Indian agents earlier this year, has ignited global attention. Following the October 29th voting, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, General Counsel of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), spoke out against the Indian government. Pannun asserted that Nijjar’s murder had exposed India as a state sponsoring terrorism before the international community.
Pannun emphasized that the current struggle was a battle of ballots, with Sikhs utilizing their votes as a potent weapon to address the genocide of tens of thousands of Sikhs in India. Despite the Narendra Modi government’s efforts to thwart the Khalistan Referendum by curbing visas, canceling identity and travel cards, and issuing threats to the families of Khalistan supporters, over 60,000 voters turned out in Phase II, standing firmly in their commitment to the cause. The first phase, which involved an estimated 140,000 Canadian Sikhs, took place at the same Gurdwara in Surrey in September. However, due to the high demand, a second phase was organized on October 29.
After the voting, two significant resolutions were passed by the gathering. The first resolution demanded the arrest and prosecution of Indian High Commissioner to Canada, Mr. Sanjay Verma, whom they believe conspired and directed Nijjar’s assassination. The Sikhs For Justice vowed to invoke the “Citizen’s Arrest” clause of Canadian law and allocated a budget of $100,000 for this purpose.
The second resolution extended the boundaries of the Sikh homeland, Khalistan, to include India’s capital, Delhi, holding Delhi responsible for the Sikh genocide and attacks on Sikhism. The SFJ also announced plans to organize referendum voting in Abbotsford, Edmonton, Calgary, and Montreal in the coming year.
Honoring Sacrifices and Nijjar’s Legacy
The Khalistan Referendum held in Surrey, British Columbia, had special significance, as it was dedicated to the memory of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Nijjar, an advocate for a Sikh homeland in Punjab, was tragically shot outside the same Sikh temple in Surrey, where the second phase of the Khalistan Referendum took place. Just moments before his death, he had delivered a powerful speech in support of the referendum.
Nijjar was not only the Chief Coordinator of the Khalistan Referendum campaign in Canada but also a close associate of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. His legacy and commitment to the cause have continued to inspire the Sikh community’s resolute stand.
The Khalistan Referendum voting campaign is being conducted under the supervision of the independent Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC), which will announce the results once all phases are completed. The voting began on October 31, 2021, in London and has taken place in multiple cities across the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, and Canada.
A Non-Binding Referendum that Sparks Open Conversations
While the Khalistan Referendum remains non-binding, it has sparked open conversations and debates surrounding India’s handling of the Khalistani independence movement. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons on September 18, in which he acknowledged “credible allegations” potentially linking India’s government to Nijjar’s assassination, has contributed to these discussions.
The organizers of the referendum are planning to extend their efforts to more locations, including Abbotsford, Edmonton, Calgary, and Montreal in 2024. The referendum aims to provide a platform for supporters of Khalistan to unite under one flag, promoting unity among the Sikh community. While the referendum’s non-binding nature is recognized, the organizers believe that the international community, including the United Nations, is closely monitoring the developments surrounding the Khalistan Referendum.