Khalistan Referendum campaign covered under First Amendment: US

— Reuters/File
— Reuters/File

LONDON: The US government has said that the global Khalistan Referendum campaign run by pro-Khalistan Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) advocacy group is covered under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

During a media briefing at the State Department, a spokesperson was asked to comment on the fact that there were tens of thousands of Sikhs living in US and there was a US-based advocacy group “Sikhs For Justice” managing the Khalistan Referendum in several Western democracies and what was Washington’s stand on this as India has derided the campaign.

The spokesperson said he would not comment on the specifics but “broadly across the board” campaigns like Khalistan Referendum are protected under US laws.

He added: “Individuals have the right to freedom of speech, the right to peacefully assemble in the United States all of which are in line with our First Amendment protections and adherence, of course, to any appropriate federal and local regulations.”

The spokesperson was also asked the question following the fallout from the assassination of pro-Khalistan Hardeep Singh Nijjar by the Indian government agents in Canada’s biggest Gurdwara in British Columbia.

On June 18, Indian agents assassinated Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada, according to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.

Nijjar was Chief Coordinator of Khalistan Referendum campaign in Canada and was a close associate of UK based Paramjeet Singh Pamma. Nijjar was a close associate of Khalistani leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is Counsel General of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), the advocacy group running Khalistan Referendum globally. Nijjar, Pamma along with Pannun were designated Terrorist by the Indian government in 2020. Nijjar was also President of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in British Columbia.

The US govt has urged India to cooperate with an investigation into the assassination of Nijjar on Canadian soil. Family and friends of Nijjar – as well as the Canadian investigators and western observers – that Nijjar was killed for running the Khalistan Referendum campaign in Canada.

Before going public to call India out on killing the Sikh leader in Canada, the Canadian PM took Five Eyes countries into confidence.

The Canadian Prime Minister has said: “The Americans have been with us in speaking to the Indian government about how important it is that they be involved in following up on the credible allegations that agents of the Indian government killed a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil. This is something all democratic countries, all countries that respect the rule, need to take seriously and we are moving forward in a thoughtful, responsible way anchored in the rule of law with all partners, including in our approach with the government of India.”

The Khalistan Referendum is an unofficial referendum organized by the Sikhs For Justice across multiple countries regarding the potential creation of an independent Sikh state known as Khalistan. The SFJ intends to conduct the referendum in Punjab and major cities worldwide. Tens of thousands of Sikhs have taken part in Khalistan Referendum voting in UK, Italy, Switzerland, France, Australia and Canada.

The SFJ says that at the end of the Khalistan Referendum voting it would approach the UN and other international human rights bodies with the demand to re-establish “Punjab as a nation state”.

The next phase of Khalistan Referendum will be held in Vancouver on 29th October at Guru Nanak Gurdwara where Hardeep Singh Nijjar was killed.

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