By Gurmukh Singh OBE | PANJAB TIMES | OPINION |
Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi, resplendent in his colourful turbans, is becoming a familiar figure in the House of Commons. Similarly, Preet Kaur Gill has made rapid progress and proven herself through her contribution to debates. Both have paved the way for many more Sikh men and women Members of Parliament in future.
Going by the UK Sikh population, the number of marginal seats and the general political environment, the political cake for aspiring British Sikhs is large. Continuing from last week, the need is for community (ਕੌਮੀ) spirit which should celebrate and build on past successes. That is a pre-condition for Sikhs who have any political ambition. Yet, regrettably, there are some who think that the only way to succeed is to first bring down those already making a significant contribution and have opened the doors to next generations.
Despite the seriousness of the topic, one is reminded of a joke — the type Sikhs invent about themselves — about Sikh prisoners in Pakistan during the Indo-Pak war, who were kept in an enclosure with a low fence while the other Indian soldiers had a high barbed wire fence around them. The logic of the Pakistani general was that while other Indians will co-operate to get over even a high fence, the Sikhs, despite their great military tradition but true to their habit, will pull down one another trying to get over it! Regrettably, such habits are in our blood.
When entering a new field, sabat surat (full identity) Sikhs represent the community. Examples are: the first turban wearing Sikh bus driver (50 years ago), later Sikhs in uniform (army, police etc), the first judge (1982), the first turban-wearing civil servant representing UK abroad (1987), the first Lord (2011), the two MPs mentioned above (2017) and many more in other fields. The feeling when opening a new door for the community should be that of humility and pride at the same time. Humility before the Guru for the success and pride in own community and heritage. Let the community own such achievements and build on them. For the above reasons, it is most disappointing to read any negative comments from Sikhs about Sikhs who have succeeded in politics in recent years.
A related topic mentioned in communications is Machiavellian politics being adopted by individuals or small groups bent on holding on to their positions. The dictionary tells us that it is behaviour analyzed in Machiavelli’s The Prince, in which political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain position or authority. It is characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty.
Such tactics cause divisions and general disillusionment with Sikh organisations despite their past successes. So much so, that some prefer to serve outside organisations or Panthic jathebandis. Yet, to quote a colleague, Jathebhandis and organisations, for all their flaws, are still bound by a Panthic mandate and should be supported. We keep building on the Panthic foundation and past successes.
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.
UK Government Sikh Roundtable (Asia Samachar, 20 April 2019)
Doctrine of Double Sovereignty (Asia Samachar, 31 March 2019)
Khalsa Panth: A Sovereign Nation (Asia Samachar, 7 Jan 2019)