The referendum called by radical Sikh separatist group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), seeking support for an independent nation carved out of the Punjab state of India, has been dubbed as a “farce” and a move by the “Khalistanis in the West to make a show of force,” by participating Sikhs, media reports said.
The truth in these allegations is evident from the lack of Sikh participation in the voting held in British Columbia’s Surrey, forcing the SFJ to call for a revote on October 29 after an initial vote on September 11.
The referendum organisers have not yet released the turnout numbers, apparently to conceal the fact that the so-called Khalistani activists have been rebuffed by the community, whose rights it claims to safeguard.
According to a report by the The National Telegraph (TNT), the voting procedures, atmosphere, and voter security at the traveling Khalistan referendum were anything but democratic.
The individual, the news organisation spoke to, requested anonymity, citing reprisal by the radical Sikh separatist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), which organised the referendum.
The individual said around five to seven thousand people showed up in the first round of voting, based on the size of the line throughout the day.
This was miniscule compared to the 154,000 Sikh population in Surrey, British Columbia. This further reasserts the fact that most of the Sikhs are not interested in the SFJ’s push for a separate nation, laced with hate propaganda and threats against India.
Only a minority of the Sikh population came to vote despite wide promotion for the event, the report said, citing sources, and added that there has been much pressure on the community to turn out.
The Sikhs For Justice asserted that 100,000 individuals participated in the initial voting round, a claim that appears far from the truth, given that the vote took place at a single Gurdwara.
There is no visual evidence, such as photos or videos, depicting a crowd anywhere near the six-figure mark, which SFJ should have produced along with reliable data to substantiate the 100,000 figure.
Instead, it resorted to half-truths to emphasise that it holds massive sway over the Sikh community in Canada.
If, indeed, 100,000 people attended in Surrey back in September, why would additional voting rounds be considered necessary?
He said the environment around the referendum voting stations was an exceedingly partisan atmosphere.
Describing the atmosphere of the event, the individual told TNT, “There were a lot of Khalistani flags and there was a lot of repetitive audio plated from speakers chanting “What do we want? Khalistan!” There were pictures displayed of the 1984 Sikh genocide. And pictures portraying Modi as an enemy and pictures of Hardeep Nijjar.”
He told TNT that he went to the event to meet someone and one of the individuals, who went there, said that he was more for Sikh rights than the idea of separatism.
When this person proceeded to vote in the referendum he was surprised by the lack of security or necessary steps that are fundamental to ensuring voter integrity in any voting process that seeks true outcome.
“You have to show your ID, they don’t check you off a list like normal elections here in Canada. I had a volunteer look over my voting barrier. I made a mistake where I put down an X instead of checking and I asked him if it was okay. He said not to worry but did reconfirm with me that I voted ‘no’. In terms of exploitation, it was an echo chamber,” he told TNT.
“Here’s what I noticed….. When you vote for any level of government election, they highlight or cross off your name so you can only vote once in every cyclical election. At this referendum, you show your ID but they don’t cross off your name but put a mark on your fingernail using a marker. This means you can come back on a different referendum voting day and vote again and nobody would ever notice,” he added.
The referendum exercise appeared to be aimed at mobilising individuals sympathetic to Khalistan. The outcomes of the referendum vote lack significance, and no international authority should acknowledge what Sikhs For Justice asserts their results indicate. It is a mockery and should be regarded as such, the news organisation noted.
To vent his frustration over the poor show by the Sikhs in the much-advertised referendum,SFJ leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun released a two-minute, 30-second video on September 12.
He made a hate speech against Indian leaders but claimed that “lakhs of Sikhs participated in the referendum” despite being snubbed by a huge number of Sikhs.
It is well known that the referendum is SFJ’s attempt to push the UN to exert pressure on India for a Khalistan plebiscite in Punjab, an endeavour that threatens India’s societal unity.
It advocates for a violent separatist movement that lost popularity in the country decades ago.
Outlawed Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), its legal counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun and the World Sikh Organization are trying hard to revive the violent movement from their bases in the US and Canada.__indiablooms.com