Punjab Independence Referendum 2020
Right to Self-determination for the People of Punjab
January 26, 2019
Referendum 2020 is a question to Punjabis if they want to free Punjab from Indian occupation. Referendum 2020 is a peaceful, legal and democratic method of liberating Punjab from repressive Indian rule. It is a vehicle for Punjabis to exercise their right to self-determination.
Punjab was an independent country until 1849 under the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. At that time the geographical area now called India was not a single country, it was then a conglomeration of small kingdoms. After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the British conquered Punjab following three big battles and heavy loss of life on both sides and annexed it to its Empire. In 1947 when India was partitioned, the country of Punjab was not re-established as a result of imperfect decolonization. It is that country of Punjab which the Sikhs want to reclaim and re-establish its sovereignty.
The unofficial Punjab Independence Referendum 2020 is the first step for the Punjabis to exercise their right to self- determination as enshrined in the United Nations Charter Chapter 1, Article 1, and part 2.
In the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 Thomas Jefferson stated, “All people are created equal and there are certain unalienable rights that governments should never violate. These rights include right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. When a government fails to protect those rights, it is not only right, but also the duty of the people to overthrow that government. In its place, the people should establish a government that is designed to protect those rights.”
In this case of Punjab, a long history of tyranny by the successive Indian governments since 1947 has left the people of Punjab with no choice but to exercise their right to self-determination to liberate Punjab from the draconian Indian rule. Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhinderanwale stated that an India Army attack on Golden Temple will lay down the foundation of the country of Punjab-Khalistan. This declaration was reconfirmed by Sarbat Khalsa (global congregation of Sikhs) on April 29, 1986 and All India Sikh Student Federation along with Damdami-Taksal on January 16, 1986.
Since Indian Independence in 1947, Indian government has killed hundreds of thousands of unarmed Sikh men, women and children. Indian government attacked Golden Temple Amritsar in July 1955 and arrested 3000 and injured more than 200 Sikhs. In June 1984 Indian Army attacked Golden Temple Amritsar (Operation Blue Star) killing thousands of innocent Sikh pilgrims and Sikh freedom fighters. India carried out Sikh Genocide in November 1984 killing more than 30,000 Sikhs all over India (some by necklacing and gang-raping of Sikh women) and rendering more than 300,000 homeless. Operation Blue Star in June 1984, Operation Woodrose following Operation Blue Star, Operation Black Thunder-I on April 30, 1986 and Operation black thunder -II on May 09, 1988 took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Sikhs in well planned attacks. Indira Gandhi’s government in the early 1980’s declared whole of Punjab as the disturbed area and gave draconian powers to Punjab Police allowing them to shoot who they wanted when they wanted, and search where they wanted giving them total freedom from the courts. Justice has been elusive.
It started with Sikhs asking for their rights. After independence in 1947, when states were created in 1950 Punjab State (Punjabi Suba) was not created. India reneged on all the promises and assurances made to Punjabis. The State of Punjab was deliberately left out to weaken the Sikhs politically, economically, religiously and linguistically. Thus, Punjab which was an independent country before 1849 was denied even the statehood in the Indian union. The Punjabis who made overwhelming number of sacrifices to free India from the British Rule (in the excess of 75-80 %), were left holding the bag. Thus, the Punjabis who were peacefully asking for the right to establish Punjab as a state in the Indian union were massacred, tortured and raped and labeled as terrorists and separatists. India started killing and torturing Sikhs to win sympathy of Hindus pretending to protect them, thus justifying its horrible and unspeakable tortures of Sikhs.
Since then the Genocide of Sikhs has been on going till today. India has been plundering Punjab’s natural resources like water and electricity in violation of Riparian rights without any compensation. When Punjab finally became a state in 1966, after innumerable peaceful agitations, it was trifurcated creating two additional states, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, thus further weakening the Punjabis.
The following points support the right to self-determination of the people of Punjab
- Politically, India controls Punjab governments- dissolves those non-compliant.
- Economically, India has been looting Punjab’s precious natural resources violating International Riparian rights. India has choke hold control on Punjab grain and fertilizers.
- Religiously, India attacks Sikh Gurdwaras at will under the false pretense of arresting terrorists.
- Linguistically, India is executing well on its plan to destroy Punjabi-language to oblivion.
- Killing the Punjabi people either by guns or by unchecked distribution of drugs or by forcing them to commit suicides by making illegal non-payable loans.
- More than 30,000 Sikhs were killed during the Sikh Genocide of November 1984. Sikhs were attacked in Delhi, 17 Indian states, and about 100 Indian cities. Sikh Genocide was carried out with the connivance of Indian government in November 1984 in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination on Oct. 31, 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards.
- Indian government hired mercenaries to kill Sikhs and paid bounties for their heads much worse than the Mughals.
- Harmandar Sahib Attacks: July 4th, 1955-an attack on peaceful demonstrators
- Operation Blue Star: June 1984-Indian Army attack on Golden Temple Amritsar
- Operation Woodrose: Killing Sikh youth following Operation Blue Star
- Sikh Genocide (all over India) - November 1984
- Hond Chillar Massacre of Sikhs-November 1 and 2, 1984
- June 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182 from Toronto, 329 innocent people killed, was India’s brainchild
- Operation Black Thunder I, April 30, 1986 –attack on Golden Temple
- Operation Black thunder II, May 1988-attack on Golden Temple
- Chittisinghpura Massacre of Sikhs, March 2000, and more, too numerable to mention here.
For Punjabis, “Independent Punjab-Khalistan is the only Option.”
Dr. Bakhshish Singh Sandhu MD, President Council of Khalistan, January 26, 2019
Self-Determination for the Sikh Peoples Introduction
The Sikhs are a minority religious community in India that forms a bare majority only in the northern state of Punjab. Since independence they have suffered oppression at the hands of India government in Delhi. Increasing militancy in the face of such oppression led to a brutal crackdown in Amritsar- the seat of Sikh spiritual and cultural life-in June 1984, which in turn led to the assassination of Indra Gandhi, India’s then Prime Minister, on October 31 of the same year. In response to the assassination, senior Congress Party officials and Indian police organized and executed massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and other parts of the country. From 1 to 3 November, ‘an estimated 8000 Sikhs, possibly much more, were slaughtered by rampaging mobs in the world’s largest democracy’. Some estimates put the figures as high as 30,000. Mass rapes and other forms of sexual violence accompanied the killings. Dozens of Sikh Temples (gurdwaras) and homes were destroyed, and thousands of Sikhs were displaced. At the time the Indian authorities explained the violence as the spontaneous reaction to the tragic loss of much-loved prime minister. However, the ‘evidence to a government-orchestrated […] massacre unleashed by politicians’ and ‘covered up with the help od the police, judiciary, and sections of the media’.
The factual support for the legal analysis contained herein is based primarily on the detailed and independent scholarship of Jaskaran Kaur and Pav Singh. In producing their separate works, Ms. Kaur, a US based and co-founder of Ensaaf, and Mr. Singh, a lawyer UK based author and journalist, drew on a number of resources- crucially, but not limited to, hundreds of detailed affidavits previously submitted to India government commissions of Inquiry.
An overview of the International Law I. Overview
- Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) a human rights advocacy group plans to hold a referendum in 2020 inviting Sikhs in Punjab, India and abroad to vote for or against the establishment of a sovereign, independent, self-governing country called Punjab-Khalistan within the current Punjab now under the Indian control.
- While there are many unknowns for any peoples exploring secession and independence, one thing is certain: to enhance its chance of success, a secession movement should start with solid legal and democratic foundations. This Brief covers the law. The democratic footing may be provided through a credible referendum.
- Self-Determination for the Sikh Peoples: An overview of the International Law (hereinafter “Brief”) provides a concise overview of the legal position and the key factual considerations under international law. It must be read with two caveats in mind: First, this Brief is not an exhaustive examination of all the relevant facts and the case law. Second it only addresses the issues relevant to the international law. But the question of secession is not only about law – it is also very much about politics. The multiple political considerations that may follow from a secession campaign are beyond the scope of this Brief.
- International law provides all the ‘peoples’ with a right to self-determination. As a general rule ‘peoples’ should exercise their right to self-determination within the territory of their sovereign state, thus maintaining the existing territorial integrity. However, there are exceptions to the rule. Where a state is occupied, subjugated and exploited by a foreign power, the right to secession may arise, as a last resort. This is because, in both these situations restoring or establishing an independent state becomes the only way of guaranteeing the right to self-determination.
- At this stage the key question is whether the Sikhs fall under the exceptions to the rule. The Sikhs may present a good arguable case that the secession is lawful because it is the only possible avenue to achieve meaningful self-determination.
II. The Right To Self-Determination: The International Law
information, resulting from police manipulation of investigations and the lax manner in which prosecutors pursued evidence’); Singh, op cit, p xxiv (‘In this book, I have attempted it has been attempted to join a series of obscure and murky dots by making extensive use of often harrowing victim testimonies, official accounts, eyewitness statements, and media reports.’)
8. The aim of this Brief is to provide an overview accessible to a wide audience of interested persons including non-lawyers.
6. So far, the international law is concerned this article will answer the question of the Sikhs right to self-determination and under what circumstances would it be lawful for the Sikhs to secede from India and create an independent country.
7. Self-determination is the right of peoples to freely determine political status and freely pursue economic, social, and cultural development. There are two main avenues for peoples to pursue self-determination: First, within the (current) territory of the parent state – known as internal self-determination; second, outside the (current) territory of the parent state, via secession and independence - known as external right to self-determination.
8. This section will consider whether Sikhs, as a group of people, have a right to self-determination under the international law. It will then discuss under what circumstances, if any, would it be lawful for the Sikhs to secede from India and form an independent country.
A.Sikhs have the right to self-determination under the international law.
B.International law guarantees the right to self-determination
9. The right to self-determination was cemented in article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations of 1948 as one of the four founding purposes of the United Nations(hereinafter “UN”). Article 73 of the UN charter requires member states:
To ensure, with due respect for the culture of the people concerned, their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses[…] and to develop self-government, to take due amount of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement.
10.Since the adoption of the UN Charter, the right to self-determination has been confirmed through International treaties and declarations. Most significant are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the “ICCPR”) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (the “ICESCR’) of 1966 (in force from 1976). Together referred to as the Bill of Rights, these two treaties are the cornerstone of international human rights law. Article 1 of both treaties states:
 UN Charter, Article 73
3 See, for example, UN General Assembly Declaration on granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and peoples of 1960: This declaration states that: “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” UNGA Resolution 1514 (XV), 14 December 1960, Article 2. See also, UN General Assembly Declaration on principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and co-operation among states in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations of 1970: This declaration states that: “By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrines in the Charter of the United Nations, all people have he rights to freely determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and the very state has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.” And: “Every state has the duty to promote, though joint and separate action, realization of the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter […].” UNGA resolution 2625(XXV), 24 October 1970, Annex, Principle 5.
1. All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligation arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no one case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
3. The states parties to the present covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of non-self-governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect the right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
11. On 25 March 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council-in the context of reaffirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination-emphasized that the right has the status of a “jus cogens norm of the international law.”
12. The International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) has also confirmed the right to self-determination. The ICJ first addressed the issue of self-determination in 1971 and praised the achievement of “self-determination and independence of the peoples concerned.” In 1995 the ICJ revised self-determination in connection with a dispute between Portugal and Australia over the continental shelf adjacent to East Timor. In that case, the court found that: (i) the “assertion that the right of peoples to self-determination, as it evolved from the UN Charter and from United Nations practice, has an erga Omnes character, is irreproachable”; and (ii) the “Principle of self-determination of peoples […] is one of the essential principles of contemporary international law.”
11. ICCPR (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) 999 UNTS 171,
ICESCR (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 3 January 1976) 993 UNTS 3, Article 1.
12. UN Human Rights Council, 28th Session, Agenda Item 7, Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, A/HRC/28/L.32, 25 March 2015
13. Also known as the world court, the ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the UN with the mandate to settle legal disputes between member states, and to the issue of advisory opinions.
14. See Legal consequences for states of the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia (South West Africa) notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (1970), Advisory Opinion, 21 June 1971, ICJ Reports 1971, para 53, p19.
15.East Timor (Portugal vs Australia), judgement, 30 June 1995, ICJ Reports 1995, p 90 (hereinafter, the ‘East Timor Judgement’).
16. East Timor Judgement, para 29. Obligations erga omens are obligations a state owes to the international community as a whole. Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company, limited, Judgement, 5 February 1970, ICJ Reports 1970, p 3: “By their very nature and importance, such obligations are the concern of all states and all states have a legal interest in their protection.”
17.East Timor Judgement, para 29 (citing Namibia and Western Sahara Advisory Opinions). In 2004, the ICJ was required to determine “the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying power, in the occupied Palestinian Territory.” Recalling the UN Charter, Resolution 2625, the International Covenants, and its own prior jurisprudence, the Court reaffirmed the right to self-
13. In conclusion, it is beyond argument that the right to self-determination is a fundamental principle of international law that has attained the status of a ‘peremptory norm’ or jus cogens, with an erga omnes character. Peremptory norms have a “higher rank in the international hierarchy than treaty law and even customary rules.” Importantly, it is not permissible to derogate from a jus cogens principle.
Systematic Attacks on Sikhs
a. Systematic attacks on Sikh religious freedoms
14. As described above, Article 25 of the Constitution of India appears to label Sikhism as a sect of Hinduism. The practical effect of this constitutional article is to deny the Sikh community the right to enact and be regulated by Sikh religious cannon in customary Personal Law. Sikhs are therefore subject to Personal Law enacted in accordance with the customs and beliefs of the Hindu community.
15. Moreover, Sikh gurdwaras have come under attack during flare-ups of violence. The Golden Temple complex has been identified by the government of India as the epicenter of Sikh separatism and has been subject to several military operations. During the 1984 massacres, hundreds of gurdwaras were destroyed by Hindu mobs.
16. Sikh religious leaders have been targeted by the government of India for their potential to unite and give a voice to the Sikh community. Operation Blue Star was specifically designed to eliminate Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale – a leader of an orthodox Sikh religious school and proponent of Anandpur Sahib Resolution (see below). In November 2015, Jagtar Singh Hawara (who has been incarcerated in India since 1995) was elected the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib (the supreme spiritual Sikh leader). It has been alleged that since his elevation, he has undergone severe torture in custody, including the denial of medical treatment for his wounds and medical conditions, which include dislocation of a spinal disk, bullet wounds and dislocated joints.
determination, its erga omnes character and duty of all states to promote the realization of the right. The ICJ ultimately held that the wall was contrary to International law as it mounted to a violation of the Palestinian People’s right to self-determination. Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, 9 July 2004, ICJ Reports 2004, p136.
18. Prosecutor vs Anto Furundzija (Judgement) IT-95-17 / 1-T, para 153 (10 December 1998)
19. See ‘Operation Blue Star’ Swami, Praveen “RAW chief consulted MI6 in build-up to Operation Bluestar”. 16 January 2014, Chennai, India. Available at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/raw-cheif-consulted-mi16-in-buildup-to-operation-bluestar/article5579516.ece
See ‘Operation Black Thunder 1’ Weishan, Steven R. “Indian policemen raid Sikh temple”. New York Times. 1 May 1986. Available at:
20. Complaint to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion of Belief, 15 January 2018.
17. Sikh national and cultural identity is inextricably linked to their religion. An attack on religious rights, leaders and places of worship amounts to a serious attack on the very fabric of Sikh society.
b.Systematic attacks on Sikhs’ freedoms of speech, assembly and association
18. Through concentrated attacks on Sikh speech, assembly and association, the government of India has demonstrated that it does not afford to Sikhs the fundamental guarantees granted to all citizens by the Indian constitution. As set forth below, attempts to express the desire for self-determination by peaceful means and within the constitutional framework has been met with violence and suppression. Those arguing for self-determination have been labelled as terrorists, gagged and jailed. The Union government regularly imposes media blackouts and repressive censorship over ‘sensitive’ issues such as the 1984 Sikh massacres. In 2018, India came 138th (out of 180) in the World Press Freedom Index, and was labelled as the fourth most dangerous country for journalists in the world. In the 1950s and 60s, tens of thousands of Sikhs were detained on this basis. Detention and ill treatment escalated in the 1980s and continues to present day. According to Human Rights Watch:
The Indian government has escalated pressure on civil society groups critical of its policies, using harassment, intimidation, and restriction on foreign funding. Free speech has come under attack from both the state and interest groups, and critics of the government often face charges of sedition and criminal defamation, and are labeled ‘anti national’.
19. On 12 July 2018, the government of India issued a demarche urging the UK authorities to ban a peaceful gathering by the Sikh diaspora in Trafalgar Square in London. In so doing, the government of India has demonstrated that not only does it limit its citizens’ freedoms at home; it also seeks to extend its censorship internationally. A people who are prevented from exercising these basic freedoms on behalf of their community cannot be regarded citizens of India.
c. Systematic denial of justice to Sikh Victims
20. Successive governments have failed to prosecute those responsible for the killings and human rights abuses of 1984. Two government-appointed commissions and a further eight ‘committees’ were given the mandate to investigate the attacks on the Sikh population. The results ranged from a complete and unapologetic whitewash (Misra Commission) to a more sophisticated exoneration of implicated Congress leaders (Nanavati Commission). Of 3,163 arrested suspects, a Congress Party and police officers were blocked and dropped through blatant political interference and corruptions. There have been no prosecutions for rape.
21 Constitution of India, Article 19.
22. Reporters Without Borders, ‘India’, available at; https://rsf.org/en/india.
23.International News Safety Institute, ‘Causalities Database:2018’,available at: https://newssafety.org/casualities/2018/.
24.Pav Singh, ‘1984: India’s Guilty Secret’, Kashi House, 2017, pp.127-151.
This highlights a comprehensive failure of the Indian legal system to provide Sikh victims with a semblance of justice
 Human Rights Watch ‘India: No Justice for 1984 Anti-Sikh Bloodshed’ 29 October 2014, available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/10/29/india-no-justice-1984-anti-sikh-bloodshed
21. International human rights organizations and global civil society appealed to international leaders and the Indian government to bring justice to the victims of the human rights abuses of 1984, to no avail. Many of those implicated have served in government positions and are being shielded from prosecution. Notwithstanding Dr Manmohan Singh’s (former Prime Minister of India) apology for the massacres of 1984, there has been a continued refusal to accept state responsibility or commit to justice. According to Judge Dingra who presided over the cases associated with the 1984 massacres:
A system which permits the legitimized violence and criminals through the instrumentalities of the state to stifle the investigation cannot be relied upon to dispense basic justice uniformly to the people.
25.Human Rights Watch ‘India: No Justice for 1984 Anti-Sikh Bloodshed’ 29 October 2014, available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/10/29/india-no-justice-1984-anti-sikh-bloodshed
26.Amnesty International ‘India: Punjab-Twenty years on Impunity continues’ 2004, available at:
https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/96000/asa200992004en.pdf ; Human Rights Watch, ‘India: Prosecute those responsible for 1984 Massacre of Sikhs’ November 2,2009, available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/11/02/india-prosecute-those-responsible-1984-massacre-sikhs
27. Prominent members of parliament at the time of the massacres, such as Jagdish Tytler, have not been prosecuted after the cases were taken to court – Amnesty International ‘India: Government has failed victims of 1984 Sikh massacre’ 15 April 2009.
28. Human Rights Watch ‘Joint letter to President Obama Re: the 30th Anniversary of Anti-Sikh Attacks in India’ 4 November 2014
29. Human Rights Watch ‘India: No Justice for 1984 Anti-Sikh Bloodshed’ 29 October 2014, available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/10/29/india-no-justice-1984-anti-sikh-bloodshed