Record-breaking turnout for Khalistan Referendum in Brampton, claims SFJ

Over 50,000 Sikhs took part in the Khalistan Referendum held in Brampton last Sunday, according to reports by Indian and Pakistani media. One report says thousands more were turned away as queues stretched several kilometres at the close of the day at 5 pm.

While the numbers (organizers claimed attendance was over 110,000) could not be verified, visuals on social media show a large number of men, women queuing up to vote for an independent state of Khalistan with Shimla as its capital. The referendum was organized at Gore Meadows Community Centre in Brampton by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), a pro-Khalistani advocacy group that has been banned in India. Sikhs living in Canada who are 18 years and older were eligible to vote. A news release from the Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC) said it was tasked with supervision of the voting which was managed by third-party administrators.

SFJ claimed that Sunday’s event had broken all previous records of voting in London, where over 30,000 Sikhs had taken part; Italy, where the number was just below London; Geneva where the presence was under 10,000 and the UK’s cities of Slough, Birmingham, Leicester and Manchester where the numbers were significant.

The group advocating for Khalistan says voting in Punjab will start next year.

“Today, Canadians voted in the independence referendum to reclaim Shimla as the capital once Punjab is liberated from the Indian occupation. The voting in Punjab for the Khalistan Referendum will start from January 26, 2023, coinciding with India’s 74th Republic Day,” media quoted SFJ’s Counsel General Gurpatwant Singh Pannun as saying.

In response to a reporter’s question on why India is criminalizing a Khalistan Referendum and not allowing the voting to take place in Punjab, PRC Chairman Dane Waters stated that in his view “If India is a true democracy, then they need to walk the walk and talk the talk. They should allow their citizens to exercise their right to self-determination and not limit the opportunity to vote just because they are afraid of the outcome.”

Participants of the referendum held in Brampton reportedly said that the Indian Punjab will soon emerge as an independent country on the map of the world and that India cannot deprive the Sikh people from their right to independence at gunpoint.

Indian authorities are reportedly upset with the Canadian government for not stopping the referendum.

However, Canada maintains that all people have a right to self-determination and freedom of speech and expression in a peaceful manner.

Last week, a temple in Toronto was defaced by pro-Khalistan, anti-India graffiti in an apparent hate crime, prompting the Indian mission to condemn the incident and urge authorities to take swift action against the perpetrators.

“We strongly condemn defacing of BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto with anti-India graffiti. Have requested Canadian authorities to investigate the incident and take prompt action on perpetrators,” The Indian High Commission said in a tweet.

Chandra Arya, the Member of Parliament representing the Ottawa riding of Napean said the incident has raised concerns among Hindu Canadians.

“Vandalism of Toronto BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir by Canadian Khalistani extremists should be condemned by all,” he tweeted. “This is not just an isolated event. Canadian Hindu temples have been targeted in the recent past by these kinds of hate crimes. Hindu Canadians are legitimately concerned.”

Earlier Khalistan slogans were found painted on the walls of the Indian Consulate in San Francisco, according to media reports. The incident is believed to have been triggered by a provocative statement issued by SFJ in the wake of India’s 75th anniversary of independence last month. Ahead of the Independence Day celebration in India, the Khalistani leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannu reportedly announced a cash reward for the hoisting of the Khalistani flag at key places.

Nonetheless tension prevails between India and Canada over the Khalistan situation.

One Indian news report accused Canada of becoming has become the destination of choice for Khalistani terrorists and their sympathizers. 

“Successive governments in Canada, either out of unawareness or perhaps deferring to the influential Sikh vote bank chose to turn a blind eye to Khalistani extremism,” the TFIGlobal news report says. “It goes to India’s credit that it still counts Canada as one of its friends and allies.”