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Referendum 2020 reverberates in Punjab politics

Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira addressing his supporters. (file photo) Source: Supplied

The contentious issue of Referendum 2020 that aims to create a separate state of Khalistan took the centre stage in the Punjab politics after a political leader in the state attributed its origin to maltreatment of Sikhs in India.

The issue of the referendum 2020 is reverberating in the mainstream politics of Punjab, perhaps for the first time, with political leaders taking aim at one another after the state’s leader of opposition attributed its origin to “historical maltreatment of Sikhs by India”.

Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the Aam Aadmi Party leader in the Punjab State Legislative Assembly, on Saturday said the Sikh Referendum 2020 was a result of “consistent policy of bias, discrimination and persecution towards the Sikhs by successive governments in India”.

Though Mr Khaira clarified that he did not support the referendum, he said giving the Sikhs a “truncated Punjab”, “unfair” distribution of river waters, the 1984 military operation inside the Sikhism’s holiest shrine- known as Operation Blue Star and the anti-Sikh violence of 1984 after Indira Gandhi's assassination were among the major reasons behind the Sikhs demanding a referendum.

“The Government of India must review its anti-Sikh policies and instead apply balm on the grievous injuries inflicted upon the Sikh psyche,” he said.

Sukhpal Khaira
Sukhpal Khaira

He also found support from Simarjit Singh Bains, the leader of Lok Bhalai Party and MLA from Ludhiana.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh condemned Mr Khaira’s statement, terming the referendum “secessionist” –that seeks to severe Punjab from India and said it had potential to “destroy India’s peace and plunge Punjab back into the dark days of terrorism”.

The Chief Minister tweeted to the Aam Aadmi Party chief and his Delhi counterpart, Arvind Kejriwal, demanding him to clarify his and his party’s position on this.

The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bhartiya Janata party also criticised Mr Khaira for his statement, with former Punjab deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal also asking the AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal to act against the Punjab LoP.   

The co-president of Mr Khaira’s party in Punjab said the national leadership will take action against the state leader of the opposition for his statement.

Captain Amarinder Singh and Sulkhbir Singh Badal during a discussion
Captain Amarinder Singh and Sulkhbir Singh Badal.
Hindustan Times

But Mr Khaira was quick to hit back at both the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal, reminding them of CaptainAmarider Singh’s participation in the Amritsar Declaration and the SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal being a signatory to the Anandpur Sahib resolution- both asking for Punjab’s fair share of river waters, Punjabi speaking areas from the neighbouring states and Chandigarh for Punjab, among others.

Sikh Referendum 2020

It’s a campaign by a section of the Sikh diaspora in United States, Canada and Britain, to present a case to the United Nations to make India allow a vote in Punjab on the question of whether the territory of Punjab in India should be a separate country of Khalistan.

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