MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: Thousands of Australian Sikhs formed queues in Melbourne’s Federation Square to cast their votes for the Khalistan Referendum voting at the sprawling local arts centre.
Sikhs living in and around Melbourne started gathering to cast their votes at 7am for the start of voting at 8am with the religious Sikh prayers, conducted by local leaders.
Within an hour, the queue stretched to around 2 kilometres going past the Finders Train station to the deep town. Sikh youth, men, women and elderly formed queues carrying banners and flags of Khalistan and chanting slogans of “Khalistan Zindabad (Long Live Khalistan)”, “Ban Kay Rehay Ga Khalistan (Khalistan will be formed at any cost)” and “Hindutva Namanzoor (No to Hindutva)”.
The queues were growing in two directions and organiser Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) said that a huge turnout of Sikhs in Melbourne is a strong message to India that it can no longer suppress the voices of Sikhs by using state power, and diplomatic and economic might.
The SFJ’s General Counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said the fact that thousands of Sikhs had decided to answer their call is a clear message to India from Sikhs.
“The independence of Khalistan like objects in the side mirrors is much closer to becoming a Sikh homeland,” he said.
The SFJ has said that the proposed state of Khalistan would be achieved by carving out the north Indian state of Punjab, parts of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, and several districts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
At the entrance of the centre, large banners hung reading “Khalistan Referendum, Punjab, Shimla Capital” and “Khalistan Referendum, Secession of Punjab from India’.
Sikh men arrived in jeeps, cars and coaches to take part in voting. Outside the venue, a group of Dholists played traditional Punjabi dhol, Sangat songs and chanted slogans for the martyrs of 1984 Operation Blue Star and for the freedom of Punjab.
The SFJ had announced that voting for the Australian chapter Khalistan independence referendum will be held at Federation Square in Melbourne on January 29.
The voting in the referendum, which started in October 2021 in the UK’s seven cities, has so far been held also in Switzerland, Italy and two Canadian centres.
During a press conference in Melbourne last week, the SFJ’s counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said that the Indian government was trying to “criminalise” the attempt of Sikhs to demand a separate state.
Inside the voting centre on Sunday, over three dozen members of the Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC), the independent body which is supervising the voting in the global Khalistan Referendum, are supervising the voting process and guiding the Sikh voters on how to caster their votes on the question of “Should Indian Governed Punjab Be An Independent Country?” with two options of “Yes” and No”.
The SFJ will announce the estimated number of votes cast in the evening, an hour after the voting is closed.
Since the pro-Khalistan group the SFJ announced to hold Khalistan Referendum in Melbourne, the Indian government has used diplomatic pressure against Sikh organisers of the Referendum campaign to stop the voting process but that has not worked as the organisers have complied with all legal requirements but the anger and frustration of Indian government is reflected in a press release issued by Indian High Commission in India.