Punjab Pulse News Bureau
Sikh for Justice (SFJ), a US based group, launched Referendum 2020 at the behest of Pakistan. It forms a part of the overall plan conceived by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of the Pakistan Army that is responsible for conduct of Psychological operations targeting India. ISI agenda to engineer divisiveness and disruption within India and especially in the border states of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjaab.
The SFJ, headed by Avtar Singh Pannun, was formed in 2007, but has come to prominence only in the last 5 years as it started advocating a separate Khalisatn state. The group’s primary objective is to establish an ‘independent and sovereign country’ in Punjab. It also started an online secessionist campaign, the ‘Sikh Referendum 2020.’
Gurpatwant Singh Panun, a law graduate from Panjab University and currently an attorney at Law in the US, is the face of SFJ and the prime mover of Referendum 2020. The referendum asks Sikhs living across the world to build a consensus in favour of Khalistan and sign a declaration for the formation of a sovereign and independent country in “India-occupied Punjab” on the basis that Sikhs are the indigenous people of Punjab and have a historical homeland, are a separate religion and have the right to self-determination. What the group chooses to ignore is that the Khalistan Movement that has died a natural death a long time back.
SFJ boasts of a large following, however, not all in the US and Canada are in favour of the objective of the organisation. In fact some senior community members have serious reservations. “This is something really stupid… to talk of Khalistan. Where will the Sikhs living in the rest of India go?” says US-based multi-billionaire hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, reacting sharply. “It is not at all practically possible because we are part of a larger India and Sikhs live in every corner of the country. They are doing very well in all fields,” he adds.
Many Sikhs living abroad feel that by raising an issue of this nature they would only cut ties with their generation living in India who are quite satisfied in being an integral part of the Indian Union.
The status of SFJ gained prominence in the build-up to the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. There were many voices advising caution in view of the very apparent insidious objective of the ISI so far as Punjab is concerned. The main among these voices was that of Captain Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab. He termed the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor a “bigger conspiracy” hatched by the Pakistan Army. “The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor is clearly a game plan of the ISI,” Singh said, while admitting that Pakistan was attempting to revive militancy in Punjab. It is for this reason he felt the need to be wary of all of Pakistan’s overtures, no matter how grand they appear to be.
Singh also lashed at the ‘Sikhs For Justice’ for abetting terrorism in Punjab by whipping the religious sentiments of Sikhs. He said that the people of Punjab, especially the Sikhs from rural areas, would not lend support to its so called ‘Referendum 2020’. The SFJ’s claims of the Kartarpur Corridor being a gift of Pakistan also had no takers in Punjab, the chief minister added.
Brigadier Injo Ghakal (Retired), a war veteran who served the Sikh Regiment, has recently summed up the SFJ and Referendum 2020 debate very lucidly on Face Book. His post is quoted below.
“Punjab is blessed to have a worldwide Diaspora, Sikhs are like Potatoes, found universally. The Sikh Diaspora abroad form tight groups to preserve their identity. It is in such groups, that many who migrated when Punjab was on boil post Operation Blue Star, have leadership rights. Those who had to flee their homes for fear of action for wrongs done or fear of retribution are the ones who stoke the fires of dissent and have called for Referendum 2020.
The Punjabi’s defeated the militancy movement that had engulfed it in the early 80’s. The common man turned away from the killings of non-Sikhs and moderate Sikhs. The autocratic movement had also lost some purity when lumpen elements joined in to take advantage. That is when the common man from rural Punjab turned away from the militant movement. Decades down the line efforts by a few NRI groups are ongoing to revive the call for an independent Punjab, abetted and supported with glee by Pakistan. But to my mind it is a non starter. The memory of the militancy decade is far too fresh for any slide back into the past morass. Punjabi’s will not allow a repetition of that ugly past, try as the vested interests may- the Referendum 2020 Groups & ISI of Pakistan.
The Kartarpur corridor may well be a Pakistani ploy to play to the Sikh gallery with an eye on fanning dissent, but it will not succeed. The lessons have been well learnt. Pin Pricks certainly, but a full grown movement for referendum, certainly not. Punjab, fortunately has at its helm a leader (Captain Amarinder Singh) with a military mind, clear vision and capability for steering Punjab through the hurdles that may be created by vested interests, unlike the predecessors who ran with the hare and hunted with the hounds. So Referendum 2020 a pipe dream!!”
Very aptly summarized t by the veteran Brigadier who speaks from experience and a deep understanding of the dynamics involved.
Notably, the ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has banned SFJ under the Unlawful Activities Act. The Government states that the SFJ is espousing secessionism and militant ideology in Punjab, while operating from safe havens on foreign soils and actively supporting inimical forces of other countries.