image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

British Sikh Representation & Role of Civil Servants

 

 

  • Why are Sikhs unhappy about Government handling of Sikh issues?

  • What sort training do civil servants receive about the faith communities they are dealing with?

  • Who should represent Sikhs faith issues?

  • Who should decide the Sikh agenda for meetings with ministers and civil servants?

  • How are Sikh concerns conveyed to Ministers?

 

      Generally, British Sikhs are not happy with the handling of Sikh issues and concerns by the Government and the civil servants dealing with Sikh faith community. The above questions also give some pointers to the solutions. Obviously, civil servants dealing with Sikhs should receive at least some introductory training about Sikh faith and community organisations. Only Sikhs, as per definition of a Sikh, should represent Sikh faith issues.

The credentials of the Sikh organisations should be vetted. For example, are the civil servants dealing with Sikhs aware that the definition of a Sikh is given in the Sikh Code of Conduct and Conventions (Sikh Rehat Maryada)? Do all Sikhs representatives around the table subscribe to this Code? If not, then can they really be regarded as qualified to talk about Sikh faith issues? Obviously not.

On Wednesday 14 November, Sikhs are lobbying MPs in the Parliament and later, on Tuesday 20 November, some Sikhs are meeting Civil Servants to raise a number of concerns. Among other grievances, a vast majority of British Sikhs are disappointment so far with the handling by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) of the question of dedicated Sikh ethnicity tick box in Census 2021.

Other issues include omission of Sikhs in the Hate Crime Action Plan which focuses on Muslims and Jews Offensive Weapons Bill and lack of consultation with Sikh organisations regarding the impact on the large Kirpan absence of a suitable response to the Sacrificing Sikhs report supporting an independent public inquiry on UK involvement in the 1984 Sikh Genocide concern about police raids on the homes of British Sikh activists in Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester and London and, the case of Jagtar Singh Johal arrested in India. A misleading Indian press interview by a British Deputy High Commissioners in India, following meetings with Sikh representatives facilitated by a the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is on the table also. It is ironic that the agenda of the Sikh topics for the so-called Roundtable meetings is decided by civil servants!

When I recall own experience in the service about three decades ago, we were given fairly intensive modular training for the posts we were transferred to. We went out and met the real people we were serving &ndash in my case the industry, trade and export organisations. We briefed the ministers accordingly.

Today, the government investment in community relations cannot be less important than trade considerations. Over half a million hard working, least dependent on state and law-abiding Sikhs ask for no more than their just rights e.g. to be counted and monitored for ensuring equality of opportunity and delivery of services in diverse fields. The start is for the civil servants to remain in touch with genuine Sikh (as per definition of a Sikh) organisations and representatives.

 

Gurmukh Singh OBE