ROME, ITALY: Over 17,000 Sikhs have voted for the secessionist Khalistan Referendum in the Italian capital — demanding the creation of a separate homeland called Khalistan for the Sikhs of Punjab — on the call of advocacy group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ).
The SFJ dedicated the event to the memory of popular assassinated singer Sidhu Moosewala who was a supporter of the Khalistan movement and the voting centre in Rome was also dedicated to Moosewala.
Two months ago, more than 40,000 Sikhs had voted in the Khalistan Referendum in the Italian district of Brescia, around five hours from Rome. Both Italian cities of Rome and Brescia have the largest Sikhs populations in Western Europe, second only to the UK where more than 50,000 Sikhs of Indian origin live.
The Khalistan Referendum in Rome was held under the supervision of the independent Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC), which will announce the results when all phases are completed in a few months.
Large queues formed throughout the scorching day as Sikh families and youth attended the community centre to register their vote, demanding the creation of Khalistan, on the question of “Should Indian-governed Punjab be an independent country?”
Both organisers and the participants demanded justice for the assassinated singer Moosewala as well as other Sikh singers who have been killed in mysterious circumstances. They said Moosewala was an advocate of the Sikh cause and paid through his life as his security was withdrawn by the BJP government, ahead of his killing.
SFJ’s General Counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said the amazing turnout had established that Sikhs are not prepared to accept the hegemony of India and will not rest until gaining their independent state.
He said the voting in Rome coincided with the 38th Operation Blue star anniversary when the Indian army invaded Darbar Sahib and massacred thousands of innocent Sikhs.
Pannun said: “The turnout in Rome has surpassed all expectations. We organised the referendum here on the demand of the local Sikh population and settled around Rome. They have sent a clear message to the extremist Narendra Modi government that the will of the Sikhs cannot be broken through suppression.”
He said the Indian government has tried every trick at all levels to stop the Khalistan Referendum movement but it has failed and India’s attempts have backfired. “More and more Sikhs are joining the demand for freedom from India. Sikhs are fully aware that their life, liberty and prosperity cannot be secured under Hindutva India. Freedom is the only way forward.”
At the start of the voting process in London at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in November last year, around 30,000 Sikhs attended the referendum. In the Italian city’s Brixia Forum, Brescia, around 40,000 Sikhs had taken part in the referendum.
Dupinderjit Singh, Sikhs For Justice UK’s Coordinator, said the Indian government was involved in the worst kind of human rights abuses against Sikhs.
He said Sikhs who have left India are coming out against India like never before, to share with the world the horrendous treatment they have received in India from the Hindutva regimes. He said the occupation of Punjab was the biggest challenge for India because Sikhs will never forget about the massacres they have faced and they take pride in their identity.
Dr Bakhshish Singh Sandhu, President Council of Khalistan, Washington DC said the overall voting in Italy on Khalistan Referendum, which started on May 8 in Brescia and has been held at other locations too including referendums on May 22 in Gurudwara Novellara (Reggio Rmilia), May 29 in Gurudwara Casalmorano (Cremona) and June 12, 2022 in Gurudwara Sannicandro Di Bari (Bari), has so far seen over 120,000 Sikhs showing up to vote.
He said that under the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Sikh people have a right to express their will through a referendum on the question of the continued and future association of Punjab with India.
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.
The Sikhs For Justice also announced Khalistan Referendum in Indian Punjab on January 26, 2023 to coincide with India’s 74th Republic Day.