A NEW independence referendum is on the cards – this time among the global community of almost 30 million Sikhs – who are being asked to call for an independent state of Punjab by 2020.

Campaigners claim that Sikhs are the indigenous people of Punjab, a northern Indian state bordering Pakistan, with a distinct religious, cultural and linguistic identity who have been repressed by the Indian state.

They are launching the “London Declaration”, a peaceful campaign for a non-binding referendum on the Sikhs’ right to self-determination, as guaranteed by the UN Charter and International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

Plans for a referendum in 2020 will be unveiled at a rally in Trafalgar Square next month, organised by campaign group Sikhs For Justice, which will attract Sikhs from the UK, Europe and North America. The group believes Sikhs should be allowed to vote for independence from India because they meet the five-part test for self-determination in the UN Charter: they have an identifiable territory; a history of self-governance in that territory; a distinct culture involving religion, language, social and other characteristics; a will for self-governance and the capacity for it.

More than a dozen US-based Sikh groups formally submitted the case for a plebiscite to the secretary-general of the United Nations last year and the campaign is now being extended worldwide to give Sikhs the chance to vote to create an independent sovereign state of Khalistan.

Sikhs for Justice said that since the UN was created in 1945, dozens of countries have come into existence through a referendum, and high-profile independence campaigns are currently being fought in Scotland, Catalonia and Kurdistan.

It claims Sikhs have also been victims of economic exploitation, with the majority of Punjab’s river water diverted by the Indian government to the Hindu-dominated states of Haryana and Rajastan, causing hardship in Indian Punjab, where most people are dependent on agriculture.

Gurpatwant Pannun, legal adviser to Sikhs for Justice, said: “This is a peaceful, democratic campaign to give Sikhs the right to determine their own future.

“Since announcing our plans, we have been subjected to violent and illegal measures by the Indian state, including trumped-up charges of sedition and illegal detention, designed to silence us.

“We will not be silenced. We are giving Sikhs a voice and the chance to send out a message that will be heard around the world”.