Contacts with Ministers and senior politicians are important for raising community issues at local and national levels. These opportunities arise when politicians and party candidates visit Gurdwaras and attend other Sikh events. However, sometimes good opportunities are missed in the sycophantic rush for photo-opportunities. Also, not all Gurdwara parbandhaks, otherwise doing excellent seva, have the necessary English language proficiency.
Today, global and British Sikh issues fall under two broad headings. The first priority is the global promotion of independent Sikh ideology and institutions, and representation of Sikh identity in political and civic life of the countries the Sikhs live in. This is also the most effective response to Hindutva attempts to assimilate Sikhi by distorting Sikh history and ideology. The Ayudhia Supreme Court case is the most recent example.
The second most important concern is that Sikhs should be accurately counted and monitored to inform policy adjustments necessary to ensure equal opportunities. In the UK that is only possible under the current system if there is a SIKH ethnicity (qaumi) tick box in Census 2021 so that Sikhs are monitored as SIKH by thousands of public bodies. The optional religion box, for which Sikhs qualify, does not provide accurate figures as many do not use this option or just tick No Religion box! Also, thousands of public bodies do not use religion on their forms. Legally Sikhs also qualify as an ethnic community (qaum) due the judgement in the House of Lords Mandla case. (More about this point next week.)
Almost all topics in The Sikh Manifesto 2020-25 can be related to the above two broad categories. The Manifesto topics are: better Sikh representation of Sikh issues and identity in Parliament, Sikh ethnic (qaumi) tick box in Census 2021, statutory Code for Kakaars, attacks on Sikh identity, Sikh schools, rise of Hindutva extremism, Sikh political prisoners in India, UK involvement in 1984 Sikh Genocide and the historical and legal Sikh right to self-determination as a people.
Gurdwara parbandhaks receiving politicians in Gurdwaras need to be aware of these issues and ask for firm commitments against at least the most important of these issues.
Sikhs representation in the Parliament and the Kirpan recognition in UK legislation are outstanding achievements. Much less satisfactory is the Sikh progress towards nationwide Sikh unity. Some are saying that Sikhi is a religion only and do not fully understand the Miri-Piri qaumi (national) aspect of Sikhi. As a result, not only is the standing of the Sikhs as a theo-political community weakened, but, as we have seen, under the present system thousands of Sikhs are lost in numbers! Institutional bias in the processes used by UK departments and the establishment have to be challenged, if necessary, through the courts.
A memorable passage in the Sikh Manifesto is that the Sikhs should be allowed to become part of the DNA of the British nation and become directly involved in the decision-making processes that impact on their daily lives. It would be a mere truism to say that Sikhi survival as an independent Miri-Piri way of life depends on the assertion of Sikh ideology and identity as they play their full role as citizens of the countries they live in. (Continued)
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 also appeared here.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Indian Supreme Court involves Sikhs in Hindu-Muslim Ayudhia Babri Masjad dispute – Sikhi described as CULT (Asia Samachar, 2 Dec 2019)
Guru Nanak’s Revolution (Asia Samachar, 6 Nov 2019)