The Canadian government has refused to stop Canadian Sikhs from expressing their views by holding the Khalistan Referendum and linking it with a peaceful and democratic process within the legal parameters of the country's laws.
Commenting on the situation which emerged after an attack on a Hindu temple and the poster of a revered Khalistan Sikh leader, a Canadian government official said that Canadian nationals had every freedom to express their views under the country's laws relating to the right to freedom of expression and right to free speech and assembly.
#Khalistan #Referendum Voting on September 18 @ the Gore Meadow Community Center To #Liberate #Punjab From #Indian Occupation. @Rajgill78478625 @GurpreetSSahota @Amarind57978178 @PoliticsPunj774 @vijaygajera @MajorPoonia @RNagothu @AskAnshul @Bha7at1_Shanka7 @Meerakati pic.twitter.com/6rPUgtVQu5
— Jagjeet Singh (@JagjeetInCAN) September 14, 2022
The official views came after the Indian government urged its Canadian counterpart to act against the rising pro-Khalistani sentiment in Canada, which is home to over one million Sikhs.
A high-profile campaign for Khalistan is being run by the pro-Kahlistani and pro-separatist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ).
What is the actual map of #khalistan..what will be the name of the capital of #khalistan #khalistani.. pic.twitter.com/c6q1mJ4YD7
— NP News || India. (@NNPNews2) September 14, 2022
According to international media reports, the Indian government tried to apply diplomatic pressure on the Canadian government ahead of the Khalistan Referendum voting at the Gore Meadows Community Center in Brampton, Ontario where hundreds gathered at the center on Saturday to make preparations for the voting today.
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Canadian officials were quoted as saying it could not take away the right of its nationals to engage in any kind of political activity and demand their rights through peaceful and democratic means.
Canadian parliamentarian Sukhminder Singh Dhaliwal also said that constitutional and democratic political expression could not be stopped.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the Counsel General of SFJ and a New York attorney said the Indian government tried all means possible to paint Sikhs in a bad light before the West but the democratic governments had refused to come under Indian pressure.
They recognised that the referendum sought to assess the desire for an independent Khalistan, he said adding that once the voting process was completed then the case would be taken up at the United Nations.
Sikh brothers will soon get a free state #Khalistan, voting will be held on September 18, 2022.#KhalistanReferendum #OntarioCalifornia #Canada #Sikhs #ModiMustResign pic.twitter.com/wm9HesRTOB
— Sukhdeep Singh (@sikhsikhsikh61) September 12, 2022
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun reiterated that SFJ and other pro-Khalistan organisations had no links with violence. “We are for ballot, not bullet. India hates our approach to peace,” he maintained.
Jatinder Singh Grewal, the policy director of SFJ, said “the issue of Khalistan Referendum falls well within the right of freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right enjoyed by all Canadians. India has a difficult time understanding this principle as they have systematically criminalised political dissent within their state and today countless Sikhs who wish to exercise their right to self-determination are labeled as “terrorists”.”
He also claimed that Indian attempts to export the oppressive system to the West had failed as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom guaranteed this right and no amount of Indian pressure would change this reality.
According to media reports, Premier Narendra Modi’s government felt perturbed at the scenes of thousands of Sikhs coming out in the western capitals demanding freedom from India and the establishment of an independent state of Khalistan.
The issue of Sikh separatism was a major bone of contention during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India a few years ago. The Indian government had openly accused the Canadian authorities of showing leniency towards Khalistanis in Canada.
The Indian government had demanded the prevention of people “misusing” their right to freedom of expression to “incite violence and glorify terrorists as martyrs” which was vehemently denied by the SFJ.
The Indian media said that earlier this week, the Indian authorities launched a strong protest with the Canadian counterparts after BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto was vandalised with anti-Indian and pro-Khalistan slogans written at the entrance ahead of the September 18 voting which was set to attract tens of thousands of Sikhs.
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The Indian government condemned the vandalism at the Mandir, calling on the Canadian PM to take action against the suspected Khalistani activists.
“India had formally submitted a request in 2021 to the Canadian administration demanding a ban on [the] SFJ. However, looking at the way this organisation is conducting a referendum event with no intervention by the Canadian authorities, it can be safely concluded that Indian demands have fallen on deaf ears. The recent defacing of a Swaminarayan temple proves that the Indian government must take up the matter with its Canadian counterpart,” a leading Indian media outlet, News18 said.
Ahead of Sep 18th #Khalistan Referendum voting Violent Extremism Against Sikhs By Indian Agents.The Face of Bhindranwale On Banner were Chopped Off. The banner was installled close to Gurudwara in Malton.
WHEN @SoniaLiberal, @rubysahotalib & @TimUppal Uppal Are Going To CONDEMN pic.twitter.com/VjCQFB6eDf
— Jagdeep Singh (@JagdeepSingh_NY) September 17, 2022
“We strongly condemn the defacing of BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto with anti-India graffiti. Have requested Canadian authorities to investigate the incident and take prompt action on perpetrators,” the Indian High Commission tweeted.
We strongly condemn defacing of BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto with anti-India graffiti. Have requested Canadian authorities to investigate the incident and take prompt action on perpetrators. @MEAIndia @IndiainToronto @PIB_India @DDNewslive @CanadainIndia @cgivancouver
— India in Canada (@HCI_Ottawa) September 15, 2022
In response to the attack, over 500 Sikhs protested outside the Indian consulate in Toronto claiming that the Indian government was behind the attack on the posters of nationalist Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was regarded as a martyr, saint and icon of the Khalistan movement.
Despite the incident, PM Trudeau had not said a word condemning the offenders. Not only him, even his coalition partner Jagmeet Singh, who was supposed to protect Indian heritage in Canada, has not spoken a word about it, TFIPOST, an Indian social media platform, said in its report.
The Canadian PM was quoted as saying “Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest. We believe in the importance of dialogue and that is why we have reached out through multiple means directly to Indian authorities to highlight our concerns.”