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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Explained: Why Google has pulled an ‘anti-India’ app off Play Store

After the ban, Amarinder Singh had said that it was the "first step towards protecting the nation from the anti-India secessionist designs of the ISI-backed organisation".

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 22, 2019 8:52:23 pm
Google Play Store, Play Store, Play Store apps, 2020 Sikh Referendum, 2020 Sikh Referendum mobile app, Google bans anti-India app, Google app 2020 Sikh Referendum, Sikhs for Justice, Amarinder Singh, Indian Express The release states that an analysis of the application revealed that the data of the voters registered on the app was linked and stored on the web servers of a website called ‘yestoKhalistan.org’. (Reuters Photo/File)

Google has agreed to Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s demand to remove an “anti-India” mobile app called ‘2020 Sikh Referendum’ from the Play Store as a result of which the application is no longer available to users in India.

According to a press release issued by the Punjab government, the app asked “the general public to register themselves to vote in the ‘PUNJAB REFERENDUM 2020 KHALISTAN’.”

The release states that an analysis of the application revealed that the data of the voters registered on the app was linked and stored on the web servers of a website called ‘yestoKhalistan.org’.

This website is believed to have been created and managed by ‘Sikhs for Justice‘, a US-based secessionist group that was banned by the Government of India in July this year on the grounds of secessionism.

After the ban, Singh had said that it was the “first step towards protecting the nation from the anti-India secessionist designs of the ISI-backed organisation”.

Read | In SFJ’s Referendum 2020 app on Google, Captain sees ISI design

Punjab’s Digital Investigation, Training and Analysis Centre (DITAC) cyber lab raised the issue with Google’s legal team in India early in November since they believed that the app “was abused for committing illegal and anti-national activities by banned association called ‘Sikhs For Justice'”.

What is ‘Referendum 2020’?

The Punjab Referendum 2020 is an unofficial online ‘referendum’ that claims to be working to “liberate” Punjab, which is “currently occupied by India”, according to the campaign’s website.

This campaign is being organised by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), an organisation that was formed in 2007 that seeks a separate homeland for Sikhs. SFJ says that it plans to hold this so-called ‘referendum’ in November 2020 in Punjab and major cities in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Kenya and the Middle Eastern countries.

“Once there is a consensus within the Punjabi people that independence from India is desired, we will then approach the UN and other international forms and bodies with the goal of reestablishing Punjab as a nation state,” the website says.

Through the referendum, the campaign wants to get at least 5 million votes in support for independence for Punjab, after which it plans to approach the UN.

A proxy for Pakistan: police

The Punjab Police has said that SFJ and Referendum 2020 are both supported by Pakistan.

The face of the SFJ is a man called Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who has been known to file lawsuits against Indian politicians. Pannun, who is based in the US, has filed cases against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh on the issues of the 2002 Gujarat riots and 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Google Play Store, Play Store, Play Store apps, 2020 Sikh Referendum, 2020 Sikh Referendum mobile app, Google bans anti-India app, Google app 2020 Sikh Referendum, Sikhs for Justice, Amarinder Singh, Indian Express Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, SFJ legal adviser. (Express Archive)

In 2016, Amarinder Singh had to cancel a visit to Canada due to a case filed by the SFJ.

In 2018, the president of the Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar (Mann), Simranjit Singh Mann, and the far right group Dal Khalsa wrote to Pannun to say that the SFJ’s call for an online referendum was “far-fetched” and “unworkable”.

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