Ottawa: The Canadian government will not recognize the results of the so-called ‘Punjab 2020 Referendum’ being organized by the US-based group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), media reports said.
The group was banned by the Indian government last year under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for its alleged anti-national activities and the backing it receives from Pakistani spy agencies.
A spokesperson of Canada’s Foreign Ministry stated in an email to an Indian national daily:
“Canada respects the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of India, and the Government of Canada will not recognize the referendum.”
The spokesperson also said that the bilateral relationship between Canada and India “is a priority for the Government of Canada.”
The group, founded in 2007, advocates a separate country called Khalistan, comprising India’s Punjab state and covering a large swathe of northern India.
Not an inch of Pakistani territory, including the city of Lahore (which was once a Sikh stronghold) is included in their ‘country map’. The SFJ is said to have several handlers in Pakistan who are behind the online secessionist campaign called Sikh Referendum 2000.
Indian media reported that Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and the people
have welcomed Canada’s decision to not recognize the SFJ campaign.
Harpal Cheema, a politician from Sangrur district said, “In India, not a single person wants
any such disturbance in any part of Punjab.” Rajkumar Verka, a Congress leader from Punjab said: “The people of Punjab have rejected calla made by separatists who are sitting abroad.”
Indian media said Pakistani intelligence agency ISI has been backing the campaign launched by the SFJ as a large number of Pakistani Twitter handles have started tweeting in favour of the so-called ‘Referendum’.
The Chief Minister said he expected other countries to follow Canada’s example and reject this ‘Referendum 2020’, which the SFJ was promoting to divide India on communal lines.
Meanwhile, SFJ on Sunday launched a portal from Canadian cyberspace for voter registration in Jammu and Kashmir. The landing page displays the flag of Canada merging with Khalistan flag.
Calling SFJ activities as constitutionally protected, Counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun
said, “The Canadian government did not and cannot restrict activities of referendum 2020 on Canadian soil.” The SFJ also said that “propagation of Khalistan Referendum from and in Canada will continue and Referendum 2020 polling across Canada will be held as per schedule in November”, media reports said.