'Referendum 2020' bogus issue: Indian envoy

Last Updated 14 October 2019, 03:57 IST

The "Referendum 2020" backed by a "handful" of Sikhs is a "bogus issue" which is being supported by a neighbour opposed to India, country's top envoy to the US said on Sunday.

Stressing that those supporting the idea had "little support" from the community, Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla said such groups were "getting desperate" and going into "acts of terrorism".

This is for the first time that a top Indian diplomat has come out openly against the "Referendum 2020", promoted by separatist Sikhs for the creation of Khalistan.

"The organisers (of the referendum) are just a handful of people. The so-called Referendum 2020 is a bogus issue," he told reporters after a visit to a Sikh gurdwara in Baltimore.

"They are getting desperate, going into acts of terrorism and also militancy. I think they would be a thing of the past," Shringla added.

Responding to a question, Shringla also termed the perpetrators of the referendum as agents of Pakistan.

"These are people supported, as we know, by our neighbouring state who has constantly opposed us. They are agents of that state. They have spread false rumours and propaganda," Shringla said.

Praising Sikhs for playing a role in strengthening the relationship between the US and India, the envoy said, "We will continue to work with the majority of the community and ignore those who are a small and dwindling community."

Sporting a traditional Sikh turban and dressed in a white kurta and pyjama, the ambassador also interacted with members of the Sikh community at the event hosted by the Sikh Association of Baltimore Gurdwara and the Sikhs of America.

Asserting that the Modi Government had taken steps to address grievances of the community, Shringla said there were no more issues on the table.

"And whatever they are, the (Indian) government is completely receptive to working with the community," he said, adding that the Indian Embassy, along with eminent members of the community, was planning to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev on November 12.

"It will be a tremendous event. We will have the participation of congressmen, important people from the United States. It is a symbol of not only the success of the Sikh community but also support for a strong India-US relationship," Shringla said.

Eminent Indian-American Sikh leader Jassee Singh also said the proponents of "Referendum 2020" did not represent the voice of the community, stressing that they were just a small group.

"At the end of the day, we are working with the Indian government on several Sikh issues. And we are getting things done through talks," he said, adding that a vast majority of the Sikh community throughout the world was with India.

(Published 14 October 2019, 03:54 IST)

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