ISLAMABAD - The Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) has announced that voting for the Australian chapter Khalistan independence referendum will be held at Federation Square in Melbourne on January 29. Melbourne’s Ravi Inder Singh, a representative of the Miri Piri Gurudwara (Sikh temple), told Australian media that the voting exercise, known as the ‘Khalistan referendum’, would be a significant step towards ‘self-determination’ for millions of Sikhs around the world. Singh said the main goal of the referendum was to seek a consensus among Sikhs to establish a separate homeland within India and to determine the extent of the demand for this separatist state that would be known as Khalistan (land of the pure), SBS Punjabi, an Australian news outlet quoted him as saying. The voting in the referendum, which started in October 2021, had so far been held in the UK, Switzerland, Italy and Canada.
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During a press conference in Melbourne on Wednesday, SFJ co-founder and general counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said that the Indian government was trying to “criminalise” the attempt of Sikhs to demand a separate state. They were calling the ‘Khalistan referendum’ illegal and an act of terrorism, he added. According to media reports, Australia is home to nearly 209,000 Sikhs, accounting for 0.8 per cent of the total population, and is the country’s fifth largest and fastest-growing religious group, according to the 2021 census. Commenting on the ‘Khalistan referendum’ in Australia, SBS media outlet Australia, quoted a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and said that Australia valued diversity and inclusion, respects the right of individuals to engage in peaceful protest and supports the non-violent expression of views.
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About Khalistan, the SFJ had proposed that this 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.