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NEW YORK: To mark the 30th anniversary of Golden Temple siege and killing of 10,000 people hundreds of Sikhs held a large demonstration in front of the United Nations late on Friday.

In an effort to seek a separate homeland for Sikhs the organisers at the rally announced holding of a referendum among the Sikh diaspora world wide by 2020 towards that goal. “Sikhs Want Their Independence” was their main slogan as demonstrators waved anti-India placards and shouted slogans against India.

“We want the international community to break its silence on the oppression of Sikhs in India and the denial of their right to self-determination in (Indian) Punjab,” said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a civil rights body, which organised the demonstration in which Sikhs from across the country participated.

Organisers said the “Referendum 2020” would ask the Sikh diaspora to express their opinion on a statement that says, “I aspire for the formation of a sovereign and independent country in Indian occupied Punjab, on the basis that Sikhs are the indigenous people of Punjab, have a historical homeland, a separate religion and have the right to self-determination”.

Speaking to the crowd, Karen Parker, a prominent human rights lawyer and activist, stated that the right to self-determination is an inalienable right of all the people and that Sikhs clearly qualify for that sacred right.

Stressing the importance of referendum within the Sikh diaspora on the question of sovereignty, Parker said that in this age when the world has transformed into a global village, opinion of the trans-national diaspora was just as important as those living back home.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who practices human rights law, stated that the Sikh diaspora referendum will be managed by independent reputable organisations and monitored by international NGOs and human rights activists. In year 2020, he said, polling will be held in major cities of North

America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Kenya and the Middle Eastern Counties.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2014