Brescia, Italy, May 09 (KMS): Danced to beat of drums, Punjabi music and pro-Khalistan slogans while waiting in queues, a record-breaking number of Sikhs turned up for the Khalistan Referendum voting campaign for the creation of an independent Khalistan state and secession of Punjab from India on Sunday.
40,000 Sikh men and women answered calls by the pro-Khalistan advocacy group, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) to cast their votes for the voting process, which has captured imaginations since its start in October last year from London.
At the start of the voting process in London at the Queen Elizabeth Centre, around 30,000 Sikhs had attended the referendum voting but the turnout in the Italian city’s Brixia Forum here defied expectations of even the organisers who had estimated the turnout figure to be close to London.
Starting at 9:00am, a large queue started forming at 8:00am to cast vote at 9:00am but a floodgate opened at around 11:00am as the queue stretched to nearly half a kilometre, right from inside the voting complex to zigzag queues stretching past the vast car parking area.
Most of those who attended the Brixia Forum centre were Sikh youth and a significant number included women and families. Sikhs For Justice had announced ahead of the Referendum voting that it had chosen the city of Brixia because Italy had over 200,000 Sikhs living in it with a majority in Brescia – most of them relatively young economic migrants who have come here from India and have first-hand experience of living under the Indian rule.
It looked like a festival of yellow colour as most of the attendees carried yellow flags of Khalistan and banners of Khalistan Referendum. They danced to the beat of drums and Punjabi music as well as pro-Khalistan slogans while waiting in queues to get in. Over 300 volunteers inside and outside the hall served water, tea and food to the participants. Inside the hall, over a dozen independent observers, including two UK professors with expertise on referendums, oversaw the voting process. By midday it was jampacked both inside and outside the hall as convoys of Sikhs arrived to cast their votes.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the SFJ’s General Counsel, said the massive turnout in Italy is a clear message to the Modi regime that secession of Punjab from India is inevitable and Indian government’s attempts to break the will of the Sikh people will fail.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said, “As per Punjab Referendum Commission’s set procedures, the voting ended at 5:00pm while thousands of Sikhs were held back by Italian police. The local police played a commendable role in overseeing and controlling massive voters ready to vote in Khalistan Referendum.” He said, “On the 5th June, Italian Sikhs once again will be able to participate in Khalistan Referendum voting that will coincide with the 38th Operation Blue star anniversary when Indian Army invaded Darbar Sahib and massacred thousands of innocent Sikhs. The turnout in Brescia has been outstanding. The turnout has set a new record.”
Dr Bakhshish Singh Sandhu, President Council of Khalistan, Washington, DC, said Sikhs have expressed their right to vote for the creation of Khalistan through their democratic voting right. “Sikhs have been coming out in thousands to vote for the Khalistan Referendum to express their support for Khalistan.
Sikhs have come out in Italy, like elsewhere, to say that they have a clear case for right to self-determination on the grounds that they have a distinct and separate religious identity and language and have been subjected to genocide by India since 1984. Sikhs have sent out a message that they reject Hindutva rule over them and will not rest till they are free.”
Dupinderjit Singh, Sikhs For Justice UK’s Coordinator, said he was overjoyed at the remarkable turnout. He said, “Under UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Sikh people have a right to express their will through referendum on the question of continued and future association of Punjab with India but the Indian regime has attempted to criminalise those Sikhs who have spoken out against the Indian occupation of Punjab. India has registered cases against our top leadership and against hundreds of Sikhs overseas who have campaigned for Khalistan. Sikhs from Italy have sent a strong message to the anti-Sikh Indian establishment.”
Sikhs movement for Khalistan has its roots in India’s June 1984 military action – Operation Blue Star – against the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar in which thousands of Sikh pilgrims were massacred by the security forces and consequently resulting in the assassination of the-then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31 followed by genocidal violence against Sikhs across India.