image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

British Sikh Issues Carried Over to New Year 2020 - (Part II)

    By Friday 13 December, 2019, the results of General Election (12 December) will be known. The Conservative Party is likely to win most seats, although, it is uncertain if they would have an overall majority in the Parliament.

The sizeable British Sikh community has yet to be fully accepted by the British establishment to enable the Sikhs to be directly involved in the decision-making processes that impact on their daily lives. As discussed last week, global and British Sikh objectives fall under two broad categories. The first is the promotion of independent Sikh ideology and institutions derived from the founding Sikhi principles of Guru Nanak Sahib. The second is accurate SIKH count and monitoring , that is, as a distinct community (qaum). There is need, not only for statistical evidence of outstanding contribution of Sikhs as citizens and net contributors to the British society but also of fair treatment in diverse fields. Otherwise, as at present, they will continue to be lost in figures. The most visible community continues to be made invisible because of the stubborn resistance of the Office for National Statistics to accept overwhelming evidence.

The Sikh Manifesto 2020-25, distributed to the Political Parties, has raised awareness of such concerns. Much publicity is needed and repetition of the most important topics like Sikh ethnic monitoring is unavoidable due to the misinformation which continues to be spread.

The Mandla v Dowell Lee judgement in the House of Lords in 1983 clarified the meaning of ethnic community: The term ethnic in Section 3 of the 1976 Race Relations Act was to be construed relatively widely in a broad cultural and historic sense. For a group to constitute an ethnic group for the purposes of the 1976 Act it had to regard itself, and be regarded by others, as a distinct community by virtue of certain characteristics, two of which were essential.

First it had to have a long shared history, of which the group was conscious as distinguishing it from other groups, and the memory of which it kept alive, and second it had to have a cultural tradition of its own, including family and social customs and manners, often but not necessarily associated with religious observance.

In addition, the following characteristics could also be relevant, namely (a) either a common geographical origin or descent from a small number of common ancestors, (b) a common language, which did not necessarily have to be peculiar to the group, (c) a common literature peculiar to the group, (d) a common religion different from that of neighbouring groups or from the general community surrounding it, and (e) the characteristic of being a minority or being an oppressed or a dominant group within a larger community.

Applying the above characteristics, all five Law Lords supporting the Sikh case concluded that Sikhs were a group defined by reference to ethnic origins as far as UK law was concerned. This judgement does not affect the inalienable Sikh right to be treated as a distinct SIKHI religion. Sikhs are both, a religion and an ethnic community. That is the starting point for the Sikhs to continue to assert their Miri-Piri ideology and distinct qaumi identity worldwide. (Continued next week)

Gurmukh Singh OBE