Khalistan 2020 event in London attracts several thousand Sikhs, and some controversy
By Barfi Culture Team
13th August 2018

Over a thousand Sikhs from around the world gathered in central London this weekend to call for a referendum on Punjab's independence from India. Organisers hailed it as a historic event.

The Khalistan Referendum 2020 event was spearheaded by the New York-based group Sikhs For Justice. They claimed the event attracted over 10,000 Sikhs.

A handful of protesters waving Indian flags were also present but kept separate from the main crowd by police. They had been officially denied the right to hold a counter-protest.

"Punjab is economically down because of the policies of the Indian government. The only way out and the only solution we have is the independence of Punjab. We are seeking a non binding referendum in the year 2020," said Gurpatwant Singh, a spokesperson for Sikhs For Justice.

The group is calling for a non-governmental referendum to be held in November 2020 around the world and in India where there are a substantial number of Sikhs. Its not clear how such a vote would be funded.

Sikhs for Justice say the referendum is backed by a United Nations resolution supporting the right of self-determination for people who have a distinct identity, territory and religion.

They plan to take the results of the 2020 referendum to the UN in the hope it will add pressure on India to grant one to Punjab.

"This is a peaceful, democratic campaign to give Sikhs the right to determine their own future," Gurpatwant Singh said.

Speakers at the event also included Lord Nazir Ahmed and radio presenter George Galloway.

The main event was held in Trafalgar Square despite an official objection by the Indian government. The Foreign Office said in response: "People in the UK have a right to protest and to demonstrate their views, provided they act within the law."

It also received a muted response from British Sikh groups such as Sikh Federation UK and the Sikh Council, who welcomed the event but did not endorse it or take part. SFUK had earlier called it "nothing more than an unofficial opinion poll," while the MP Preet Gill pointed out that "non-binding referendums have very little impact".

In response to her letter, Sikhs For Justice accused Preet Gill MP of "using scare tactics", which prompted Sikh Federation UK to call on Sikhs For Jutice to apologise to Ms Gill.

Minor spats aside, Sikhs For Justice declared the event to be a complete success and say they will continue to take the campaign for a referendum to Gurdwaras around the world.

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