By Gurmukh Singh OBE | PANJAB TIMES |
Sikh success in getting exemption for the Kirpaan in the Offensive Weapons Bill as it went through the House of Commons, has shown the community strength and the power of timely lobbying. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs working closely with Sikh organisations delivered this result.
Preet Kaur Gill, the first Sikh woman MP, chairs the APPG for British Sikhs, while Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the first identity Sikh MP, resplendent in his dastaar, continues to support and make the Sikh presence felt in the House of Commons. The public and the media are becoming used to seeing the turban-wearing MP on the TV screen. Prejudice against Sikh identity is decreasing. More next generation Sikhs are likely to enter politics in the UK.
Challenges to Sikh identity are being met by Sikh organisations and the next generation Sikhs. Yet, despite a massive increase in Sikh numbers and visible political success, British Sikhs have some way to go to achieve Sikh unity around one table. It is a sad reflection that it takes civil servants to invite a motley group of Sikh organisations claiming Sikh representation, to sit around one table in Sikh-government consultations.
That is due to a number of so-called umbrella organisations who are reluctant to consult together on even the most important challenges faced by the community in the UK and globally. We have yet to achieve a UK wide Sarbat Khalsa which can link up with similar diaspora s to form a truly representative global Sarbat Khalsa.
We do have well-educated community sevadars. Electronic means for day-to-day networking are there. Such communication aided by a small full-time professional level secretariat can facilitate pooling of experience and skills for timely action. However, these facilities can only be used if there is timely sharing of information if there is a desire to delegate responsibility to those best qualified for the task in hand and, if there is the Sikhi humility needed for collective leadership. The tendency to work in secretive ways motivated by personal point-scoring is a drain on the community energy. Otherwise, the community is capable of achieving much more.
A truly umbrella assembly should not attempt to replace member organisations pursuing own objectives in different fields for they are all needed like different departments in government. It can play a catalytic role so that duplication and waste of resources is avoided and Sikh issues are taken up in a more co-ordinated, focussed and timely manner. Yet, there will be times when centralised approach will be necessary to secure Panthic objectives for example, regarding the need to secure a Sikh qaomi (ethnic) tick box in the 2021 Census, the Kakaars Guidance and for securing official guidance regarding turban searches at airports. There will be issues like interfaith (mixed) and gay marriages in Gurdwars, hard hat and caste legislation, to which approach can only be agreed jointly.
The challenges and issues were different in the 18th Century. However, the great Gursikhs of the time did show us the way to collective lead.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The article first appeared at The Panjab Times, UK
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.