Sikh experience of dealing with British civil servants

Overall, the British Sikh experience of civil servants in departments dealing with communities, immigration and border security, law enforcement and religious rights etc over the decades has not been a happy one. - GURMUKH SINGH

By Gurmukh Singh OBE | OPINION |

As British Citizens, we are justly proud of our civil service – probably still the best in the world. However, public service and its perception have also changed over the last few decades. Movement of professionals and managers between the private and public sectors has been encouraged through re-structuring of the old hierarchical style career grades and professional level technical and business skills have been brought to the public service.

Yet, on the reverse side, both, continuity of experience and quality of service, have suffered over the years as a result. This is noticeable in the area of government interface with communities. Civil servants seem to be out of touch with the British diversity today.

Overall, the British Sikh experience of civil servants in departments dealing with communities, immigration and border security, law enforcement and religious rights etc over the decades has not been a happy one. Civil servants in these areas seem to expect the so called community leaders to come to them during the consultation process while they sit in their offices. It is almost a sort of colonial attitude towards minority communities.

Yet, my own experience as a civil servant in international trade area was that we were well briefed before and during trade talks by business research and statistics. So, why not follow the same process when talking to communities and assessing their needs in a plural society?

Misunderstanding, mistreatment and spread of misinformation about Sikh identity started with the press in the late 1950s when the turban-wearing men and salwar-wearing women were shown as if they were the only immigrants! They were caricatured in cartoons as aliens landing on the beaches and following beach signs to 5-star hotels! When Sikhs asked for work, they were told to first remove their turbans and cut their hair by the factory gatekeepers.

Most of us from that generation carry the scars of such open discrimination and insults.

Sikh protests and campaigns triggered by prejudice against Sikh identity and religious articles of faith started in the early 1960s and continue to this day. The climax was the Mandla case which reached the House of Lords in 1983.

There is still no official guidance about Sikh Kakaars for officials dealing with the Sikhs. Nor are statistics about the Sikhs collated by thousands of bodies at routine monitoring level so that policy changes can be informed to create a level playing field. When consulting communities, civil servants seem to show preference for dealing with those in their own image but who are hardly in touch with the grassroots level or conversant with Sikh ideology and way of life which has contributed so much to the UK economy.

Yet, in a changing British plural society, deep-rooted prejudices can only be countered through well-informed government policy and accurate statistics. That is a challenge for the civil servants and the ministers dealing with the Sikhs and other communities. These issues, also set down clearly in The Sikh Manifesto, will almost certainly influence Sikh voters in the next General Election.



Why Article 25 offends the Sikhs (Asia Samachar, 8 June 2019)

Massive community & cross-party support for Sikh ethnic tick box (Asia Samachar, 28 May 2019)


ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |



    In Response to above article.

    Over exegerated, esspecially when Sikhs fail to understand the law in this country, and try to assert their own attitudes and mentality without rationality, or cvil ettiquette.

    We see these in our gurduaras,so what more proof is needed.

    I retired as Head of Mental Forensics, never came across any unreasonable white , and nobody questioned my right to practice my religion.

    My own daughter, is a Senior Executive Policy Advisor, in civil service and she reports a different picture, from what is alleged in this article….She has attended a number of Brexit meetings in Brussels and Vienna, She tells , how well prepared they are before any meeting.

    Sikhs have same problems in their own organisations and gurduaras, the proof is in the pudding.

    But are quick to blame the next person without working out a reasonbility formula.

    Is it any dfferent in India?The same problems.

    Any different within Punjab?Absolutely no.

    Any different in Sikh groups, a big no.

    Even during the 1947 indian negotiatiins, Sikhs failed miserably even to get safeguards for the community.

    That unwilling mentality to be honest and negotiate civilly, lacks among Sikhs.

    But these writers like blamming others, with empty shells, always.

    The British are professional, skilled and very insightful, negotiators.They are mindful of what their aim is and are always forward briefed to the process and methodology of their specific negotiation subject, and will very analyticaly guide the negotiation to a level ground, surrounded by their terms while diplomatically giving the opposing side a” feel good factor’ without compromising their own position, but staying within the guidelines of their prepared stand.

    The early Sikhs to Britain did not have the skill of the political language, nor the deep understanding of the British mindset.The Sikhs were not able to articulate simple steps to protect their needs, without giving threats.

    There was no willingness to setting aside their own differences, when meeting with the officialdom.

    Often like the Indian govt asserts, differing Sikh groups would come back and under mine the first round of talks, by giving different interpretations or changing he demands.

    The only thing they ever did was to continually harp on about the past relationship wih Britain.It is apparent they were on to glorifying old history, instead of recognising one whole century has passed , and need to speak in todays terms, rather than reminding the British past glory, which is only relevant in history books,by now.

    The words skill, knowledge, negotiation are very alien to Sikhs.Whatever had been achieved up o now, is not because of an Sikh skill, but the British are a very accomodating nation, and having knowledge of Sikhs, they accomodated Sikhs, understanding their religious needs.

    The Sikhs even failed to convince he world a gigantic mass genocide of Sikhs has taken place in 1984.

    There are so many other issues the Sikhs have failed to address among themselves with themselves

    FOR EXAMPLE:he fake rag mala
    The fake bashiter book, erroneously called dsm grant, the castiesm.All remain unsettled as Sikhs simplyhave no skill to talk amicably.

    Funnily we have this writer complaining that often they felt the British behaved as colonists, but he forgets in his own community there are so called low classes, who are treated in worse state by Sikhs themselves.He forgets tha conveniently !
    The list can go on.

    The only person who currently posses the skills and understands proper negotiation skills is Indarjit Singh, who sadly falls out of grace with the undiplomatic and crudely demanding so called Sikh leaders.

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