NEW YORK - Sikh-Americans have staged a big demonstration near the United Nations to mark the 30th anniversary of the massive Indian Army attack on their holiest religious site - the Golden Temple in Amritsar - chanting vociferous slogans in favour of independence for the people of Indian Punjab.

The Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a civil rights group, which sponsored the demonstration, also announced plans for a sovereignty referendum within the Sikh diaspora in 2020 to accomplish their  objective of an independent homeland.

“Sikhs Want Their Independence” was their main slogan as demonstrators waved anti-Indian placards and shouted slogans under clear blue skies. “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,”

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, SJF’s legal advisor, told more than 2,500 compatriots.

Organizers said the “Referendum 2020” .would  ask the Sikh diaspora to esxpress 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, Ms. Parker said that in this age when the world has transformed into a global village, opinion of the transnational diaspora was just as important as those living back home.

Pannun, who practices human rights law, stated that the Sikh diaspora referendum will be managed by independent reputable organizations 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.  The Sikh population abroad is approximately 5 million. Every Sikh living outside India with ancestors from Punjab and who will be 18 years of age in 2020, will be eligible to register and vote in the Sikh referendum, added Pannun.