image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

General Election 2019 & Sikh Issues - Why a Sikh Manifesto (ਚੋਣ ਮਨੋਰਥ ਪੱਤਰ) 2020-2025?

        It is a matter of much satisfaction that, in readiness for the General Election, The Sikh Manifesto 2020-2025 is being finalised by a team of professional level Sikhs.

When we look back at the political history of the Sikh nation in the 20th Century, we find that it is dotted with missed opportunities due to lack of any clear Sikh political strategy. Sikhs negotiating with the British colonial power or with the Indian leadership, had either no clarity of what Sikhi Miri-Piri objectives were or they traded Sikh interests with own personal interests. Yet, most remarkably, the Sikhs were given a seat around the independence negotiation table at par with Hindu and Muslim leaders. Not only had the Sikhs been rulers of a large area in India blocking off invasions from the North-West, they had also been at the forefront of the Indian freedom struggle.

Sikh political awakening came with the Anandpur Sahib Resolution (1973). I regard that to be the first Sikh Manifesto in the 20th Century. We owe that to the farsightedness of Sirdar Kapur Singh, an ex-civil servant, who had been harassed by the Indian establishment for being an outspoken critic of the corruption and open Hindutva agenda of the senior-most Indian politicians including Mahatma Gandhi.

The excuse by those who have denied just Sikh religious and political rights has always been that they do not know what the Sikhs want! That is because, before Anandpur Sahib Resolution &ndash arguably when it was too late - the Sikhs had never set down clearly in constitutional language what their rightful political goals were.

So, here we are in 2019. From trustworthy allies to loyal, industrious and law-abiding citizens of UK in the last 60 years. British Sikhs are net contributors to the UK economy and least dependent on the state welfare. So, we are not giving British political parties any excuse to ignore just British Sikh aspirations.

The Sikh Manifesto 2020-2025 will unfold in the next few days listing 10 priority issues. Amongst these are: effective Sikh political representation and accurate Sikh count in the Census ethnic (ਕੌਮੀ) categories because thousands of public bodies follow Census ethnic categories and not the optional religion category. Yet, some influential Sikhs themselves deny Sikh nationhood while accepting Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi etc ethnic categories, despite Mandla case (1983).

In conclusion, probably one of the best definitions of a nation is given by Ernest Renan, the great political philosopher: A nation is a living soul, a spiritual principle. Few things constitute this soul one in the past, the other in the present. One is the common possession of a rich heritage of memories, the other is the actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to preserve worthily the undivided inheritance. To have common glories in the past, a common will in the present to have done great things together, the will to do the like again - such are the essential conditions for the making of a people. To have suffered and rejoiced and hoped together in the past are the strongest limbs that bind a people together.

Question for the readers: Are the Sikhs a nation and a religion or a religion only?

(*Quoted by late S Gurmit Singh Sirsa in his book: A Critique of Sikhism, 1964)

Gurmukh Singh OBE