Sikhs in San Francisco Vote for Independence
Thousands of Sikhs gathered in San Francisco on Sunday, waving bright yellow-and-blue flags as they arrived in cars, buses, and trains. Their purpose? To vote for a new country of their own. The ballot measure, known as the Khalistan referendum, asks whether the predominantly Sikh state of Punjab in India should break away and form an independent nation called Khalistan.
Although the vote is nonbinding, meaning that even if the majority of voters favor independence, it won’t guarantee a new nation, to many of California’s 250,000 Sikhs, the vote represents something much more significant: freedom and democracy. Most of these Sikhs reside in the Central Valley or the Bay Area, and for them, this vote holds great importance.
The Khalistan referendum is part of a global election held on various dates in different cities where Sikhs reside. Prior to the Jan. 28 ballot in San Francisco, votes were held in London, Geneva, Rome, Toronto, and Vancouver. The referendum was proposed by Sikhs for Justice, a U.S.-based group, and it emerged from the Sikhs’ claim of ongoing persecution in India and their advocacy for increased religious freedom. With an estimated 25 million followers, Sikhism is a 500-year-old religion that incorporates elements of Hinduism, Islam, and other faiths.
On Sunday, a big white tent had been erected at Civic Center Plaza so that voters could 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 hourslong 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.”
However, the push for independence is met with fierce opposition from India’s current Hindu nationalist government, which has been quick to label the movement as misguided, if not dangerous. Sikh activists and elected officials of Sikh descent in California claim to have faced surveillance and threats due to their support for the referendum.
The Khalistan referendum represents a significant moment for Sikhs around the world as they seek to assert their desire for self-determination and religious freedom. While the vote itself may not lead directly to the establishment of Khalistan, it serves as a powerful statement of the Sikh community’s aspirations.
For many Sikhs, the referendum is a culmination of years of struggle and a demand for recognition. They believe that an independent Khalistan would provide a safe haven for Sikhs, where they could freely practice their religion and live without fear of persecution. It is a vision of a homeland where they can preserve their unique culture and traditions.
The Sikh community in California, particularly in the Central Valley and the Bay Area, has played a vital role in shaping the state’s cultural and economic landscape. Their contributions in various fields, including agriculture, technology, and entrepreneurship, have been widely recognized. The Khalistan referendum is an opportunity for Sikhs in California to express their solidarity with their fellow Sikhs around the world and to advocate for their rights.
While the outcome of the Khalistan referendum remains uncertain, the fact that Sikhs are able to come together and participate in a democratic process is a testament to the values they hold dear. The vote in San Francisco is a symbol of their determination to be heard and to strive for a better future.
In conclusion, the Khalistan referendum in San Francisco represents a significant moment for Sikhs in their quest for self-determination and religious freedom. As they gather to vote for a new country of their own, the Sikh community in California sends a powerful message to the world about their aspirations and their commitment to democracy. While the road to independence may be long and challenging, the referendum serves as a powerful reminder of the Sikh community’s resilience and their unwavering pursuit of freedom.