A secessionist app called ‘Referendum 2020’, which sought to “liberate Punjab” popped up on Google Playstore on Friday, 8 November – a day prior to Kartarpur Corridor being opened to pilgrims, has gone off the platform as of Wednesday.
Run by Sikhs For Justice – an organisation notified as ‘unlawful’ by Ministry of Home Affairs in July – the app is a digital extension of the pro-Khalistan movement ‘Punjab Referendum 2020’ which is largely based out of the UK, the US and Canada.
The app was free on Google Playstore, which irked Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh and he alleged the move was clearly aimed to push the ISI agenda of dividing the Sikh community amid the celebration of the birth anniversary of Sikhism Founder Guru Nanak Dev.
The Quint had reached out to Google on Monday regarding the availability of the app on its platform, posing the following questions:
- Has Google been intimated by the Punjab government of the ‘Referendum 2020’ app by Sikhs for Justice?
- Given that SFJ has been declared an ‘unlawful’ organisation by Ministry of Home Affairs, will Google take action regarding this and does the company have a specific policy regarding content on Google Playstore from banned organisations?
While a spokesperson had said he would check with the company’s legal team about the app in question, we have not yet received a response for the other questions we raised.
App Pushing ISI Agenda: Punjab CM
According to PTI, on 8 November, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had alleged that the app, freely available for download on Google Play, was evidently an ISI design which aimed to divide the Sikh community amid Guru Nanak Dev’s birth anniversary celebrations.
“How and why Google allowed such an app to be uploaded by a known radical extremist group in the first place is questionable,” the CM said, expressing shock at the IT company’s “irresponsible act”.
He said Google should remove the app without any delay if it did not want to be perceived as supporting an extremist group.
Sikhs For Justice Declared ‘Unlawful’ Organisation
On 10 July, a gazette notification published by the Ministry of Home Affairs had described Sikhs For Justice as a threat “to internal security of India and public order, and having the potential of disrupting peace, the unity and integrity of the country.”
MHA, exercising its power under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, had declared Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) an ‘unlawful association’.
However, just a month later on 12 August, SFJ had organised a protest at London’s Trafalgar Square where people proposed to issue ‘London Declaration’ – a declaration seeking independence of Punjab from India.
Hailing the government’s decision, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said that the group deserved to be treated as a “terrorist organisation”.
Singh termed the move the first step towards protecting the nation from “anti-India or secessionist designs” of the ISI-backed organisation.
What Is ‘Referendum 2020’
The ‘Referendum 2020’ app is an extension of the ‘Punjab Referendum 2020’ campaign to “liberate Punjab” which, according to its website, is “currently occupied by India”. The campaign aims to gauge the will of the Punjabi people vis-a-vis reestablishing Punjab as a nation state.
“Once we establish consensus on the question of independence, we will then present the case to the United Nations for reestablishing the country of Punjab,” its official charter says.
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