On 29 January 2009, late Sardar Sewa Singh Mandla introduced his account of the historic Mandla case which went right up to the House of Lords in 1983 with the words: This was a historic case both for the Sikh Community and legal fraternity.
This column has consistently covered news and discussions about the high priority case for accurate Sikh count and monitoring to address government policy changes and fair treatment of Sikhs by thousands of authorities and establishments in different fields in the UK. Most use Census ethnic categories for monitoring and not religion which is an optional category in the Census form.
Now, once again, the issue of Sikh ethnic (ਕੌਮੀ) tick box in Census 2021 is making headlines. One communication reads: Later this week Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations are expected to begin legal proceedings against the Cabinet Office if they fail to agree to provide the option of a Sikh ethnic tick box when the Census Order is presented in Parliament in the Autumn. The legal challenge will emphasise the need to address equal opportunities and anti-discrimination as regards the Sikh community and highlight institutional discrimination by public bodies against the Sikh community.
It is only by collating such statistics that Sikh needs and rights in different fields can be addressed: health, education, employment opportunities and promotions and senior position/appointments, services, prejudicial treatment in any field and fair share in representation e.g. in the Parliament.
Sikhs have been legally recognised as an ethnic group in the House of Lords Mandla case of 1983 led by late Sardar Sewa Singh Mandla associated with Guru Nanak Nishkam sewak Jatha based at Birmingham. That is because all Sikhs share common history, culture and religion, language and literature and they have always regarded themselves a theo-national community. The House of Lords made it clear that provided a person who joins the group feels himself or herself to be a member of it, and is accepted by other members, then he is, for the purpose of the 1976 Act, a member. The compulsory count and monitoring is still on the basis of ethnicity and the Sikhs qualify historically and legally.
The seed of miri-piri Sikh nationhood was sowed by Guru Nanak Dev ji. All the new towns and cities established by the Guru-persons were independent regarding theo-temporal matters and Baba Banda Singh Bahadur sent by Guru Gobind Singh to Panjab had absolutely no hesitation in grabbing political power to challenge the Mughal oppression. Later the Misls established Khalsa Raj which culminated into a regime under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Sikhs will be loyal citizens of just regimes but will not hesitate to challenge injustice. Yet, here we have self-proclaimed experts in Sikhi claiming that Sikhs are a religion only under an optional Census heading.
It is a matter of much satisfaction that some prominent Labour leaders, including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and others assembled at Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall on 19 May, 2019, acknowledged that the Sikh MPs were doing an excellent job in getting significant cross-party support to address proper Sikh recognition and the need for a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021.
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. See here.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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UK Government Sikh Roundtable (Asia Samachar, 20 April 2019)