Sikhs in San Francisco vote for independence from India
SAN FRANCISCO: (Web Desk) Thousands of members from Sikh community arrived in San Francisco in cars, buses and trains to vote for a new country of their own namely Khalistan after independence from India, reported sand Francisco Standard.
Waving bright yellow-and-blue flags, the voters demand break away of predominantly Sikh state of Punjab in India and formation of an independent nation called Khalistan.
To many of California’s 250,000 Sikhs—most of whom live in the Central Valley or the Bay Area—the vote is about nothing less than freedom and democracy. It’s a global election, held on various dates in different cities where Sikhs reside. The Jan. 28 ballot in San Francisco follows votes in London, Geneva, Rome, Toronto and Vancouver.
Proposed by Sikhs for Justice, a U.S.-based group, the referendum was borne out of what Sikhs say is an ongoing history of persecution in India and advocacy for increased religious freedom for the estimated 25 million followers of this 500-year-old religion that fuses elements of Hinduism and Islam as well as other faiths.
Independence is fiercely opposed by India’s current Hindu nationalist government, which has sought to label the movement as misguided, if not dangerous. California elected officials of Sikh descent and Sikh activists say they have been surveilled and threatened.
At Civic Center Plaza, a large white tent had been set up Sunday for the voters to cast their ballots. Campbell resident Jay Wi watched the goings on with pride Sunday afternoon.
“We want our own country,” Wi said.
Like many others traveling up from the Central Valley and other parts of the state, he had made the hours-long drive to San Francisco in the wee hours, arriving at 5 a.m. to make sure he had enough time to vote.
“It’s always been a struggle for us to be in India,” he said. “They’ve been trying to push us down and we have been slaughtered over there.”
Wi told stories of Sikh persecution from the time of India’s founding in 1947 through to recent events, including the June 2023 fatal shooting of Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar and what prosecutors say was a failed assassination attempt against Sikhs for Justice founder Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
Manteca resident Maninder Virk said he hoped for a future in which Sikhs like him could be citizens of both Khalistan and the United States. “We need our country, separate from India,” Virk said. “That’s why we are protesting here.”
Singh, who flew down from his home in Seattle on Saturday, said he was surprised by the turnout for the vote, which had drawn Sikhs from all over the Western U.S.
Singh added that he took heart not only in the numbers but in the vision of the referendum movement, one for a homeland where “everyone can speak, everyone can live.”
“We’re trying our best, and we’re voting peacefully, you know, not any violence or anything, every Sikh outside India. Because in India, they cannot talk. So, we are voting in every state wherever we can.”
Davinder Singh, a truck driver from Fresno, expressed pride at the sight of his fellow Sikhs gathering to cast ballots.
“You can see the little kids, you can see the old people,” he said. “They’re waiting for two hours, three hours.”
A bearded man in a shirt, tie and jacket stands in sunshine outside a large white tent on a public plaza.
Just steps from the large white tent on Civic Center Plaza, thousands lined up in orderly queues and waited patiently for a chance to cast their ballots.
Outside, Sikhs for Justice co-founder Dr. Bakhshish Singh Sandhu shook hands and answered questions.
“We feel good about it that people in thousands and droves have come here to vote for a Khalistan referendum to liberate Punjab from Indian occupation,” Singh Sandhu said. “There are innumerable Sikhs here, difficult to count, just like you can’t count the stars in the sky. They want Punjab to be liberated from Indian occupation.”