Big Sikh rally in New York demands Khalistan as Indian minister addresses UNGA

Protesters attend the "Freedom Rally" held to bring international attention to what they say is the imprisonment of 80 Sikh political prisoners in India, at Times Square, New York, October 17, 2015. The rally, which was organized by Sikhs For Justice and several other Sikh human rights groups, also aims to bring attention to the health of civil rights activist Surat Singh Khalsa, a California resident who has been reported to be on hunger strike in India since January in protest against the Sikhs' imprisonment. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz - GF10000248685


NEW YORK: Waving placards like “Free Punjab, End Indian occupation” and “Modi (is) face of Indian terrorism”, hundreds of Sikhs staged a rally in front of the UN building in New York, as the Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressed the UN General Assembly on Saturday.

The demonstration organized by Sikhs For Justice (SfJ), a civil rights group which is campaigning for a “Azaad Punjab-Khalistan”, denounced Ms. Swaraj for propagating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “fascist agenda”.

Earlier, the “Sikh for Justice” submitted at UN Headquarters a legal opinion, entitled, “Self-Determination For The Sikh Peoples – An Overview of Internationnal Law”, addressed to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, emphasizing holding of a referendum in 2020, a democratic process for the Sikhs to vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ an independent homeland within the Indian state of Punjab.

The UN chief is scheduled to visit India next week, and a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar is on his schedule.

A SfJ communique to the UN chief provides supporting documents on the usurpation of Sikh religion’s identity in Indian Constitution, the June 1984 Amritsar massacre as also the Indian army invasion of Golden Temple, saying, “We respectfully request that you urge the Indian Government (1) to respect the Sikh’s right to hold Referendum 2020 and (2) to stop violating Sikh’s basic human rights,” according to a press release.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to the SFJ “Through legal opinion and documentation, we are putting the UN Secretary-General on notice that Referendum 2020 is a democratic process for Sikhs to vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ an independent homeland within Punjab, but the Indian State authorities continue to commit grave human rights violations in their quest to stop this referendum”.

Citing International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo, “As per international law, peoples who have been denied self-determination within their parent state may, in exceptional circumstances, lawfully pursue external self-determination via secession and independence,” Pannun added.

Quoting an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, Pannun, a lawyer who practices human rights laws, stated that “a sub-group (the Sikhs) may lawfully conduct an independence referendum – and even declare independence – without the agreement of the parent state (in this case – India).”

“Due to the relentless persecution and oppressive by India, Sikhs face an existential threat within their ancestral homeland. It is essential that the Sikh people are given an opportunity to voice their opinion on the question of external self- determination through Referendum 2020. We welcome your intervention during your upcoming trip to India and the Punjab,” SFJ’s communique said.