Thousands of Sikhs attended a rally in Trafalgar Square to demand a referendum on independence from India.
Sikhs For Justice, the human rights advocacy group which organised the event, announced plans to hold a global referendum in 2020 to give the global Sikh community the chance to vote for the creation of an independent sovereign state of Khalistan, reports Asian Image.
The rally went ahead despite claims there had been attempts by the Indian government to block it.
Supporters from all over the world brandished banners reading “Free Punjab, End Indian occupation”, “Punjab Referendum 2020 for Khalistan” and “We will re-establish Punjab as an independent country”. They say they have the right to self-determination under the UN Charter and International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the report added.
The Indian government has expressed concern to London over the activity of expatriate Sikh separatists, who want to create a homeland of Khalistan in India’s northern Punjab state, reports a wire agency.
The Foreign Office confirmed it discussed the rally with the Indian High Commission, but a spokeswoman told AFP: “Peaceful protest is a vital part of a democratic society.”
AFP quoted Gurpatwant S. Pannun, legal advisor to Sikhs for Justice, as saying: “This is a peaceful, democratic campaign to give Sikhs the right to determine their own future.”
In an earlier statement issued by SikhPA, a UK-based Sikh press agency, said that the Sikh advocacy group Sikhs for Justice had announced that they would hold a ‘London Declaration’ on an independence referendum for the Indian state of Punjab.
It described the 12 August 2018 event as a public gathering of Sikh political activists where Sikhs for Justice would put the case for the Sikh right to self-determination.
The group is campaigning for an independence referendum to be held in 2020 in Punjab, underpinned by Article I of the Charter of the United Nations which embodies the principle of self-determination as a basis of UN engagement.
Jatinder Singh, Director of International Policy for Sikhs for Justice, advocates the referendum as a peaceful, democratic solution to the demand for an independent Punjab.
He said: ‘Once we raise the issue of the referendum, it changes the dialogue. For a long time, the Indians have been framing the conversation with terrorism, violence and those types of activities. However, what we’ve said is that we want a democratic solution to this question. It’s clearly not going away.’
He argued that a referendum was in India’s interest, both domestically and internationally, saying: ‘Do the Sikhs wants independence? If you’re content that the majority of the Sikhs don’t want independence, as India propagates all over the world, then they should be in favour of a referendum, because that will come in their favour.
‘In 2018 the Indians are damaging their relationship both with Canada and with the United Kingdom based on the activities of Khalistanis and those people that want independence.’
Making sense of the overdrive to discredit Sikhs during Trudeau visit to India (Asia Samachar, 3 March 2018)
Overplaying the Khalistan card (Asia Samachar, 21 Feb 2018)