image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

UK Sikhs Lost in Numbers: UK Government Taken to the Court

* Optional Religion box is no longer used by over 20 million people and it is not used by thousands for UK bodies for counting and monitoring communities. They use compulsory ETHNICITY categories.

   British Sikhs took their case for accurate count and monitoring to the High Court on 12 November 2019. They have been compelled to take this action having tried all other means.

They are challenging the process used by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to decide the ethnic (qaumi) groups as defined by the House of Lords Mandla case in 1983. The legal challenge has also allowed the case for the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021 to be highlighted in court and reference to be made again in court to Mandla v Dowell Lee []]1983] where the House of Lords held that Sikhs are an ethnic group. That cannot and has not been disputed in court.

No matter what the personal views of some, the highest Court of the land decided that the Sikhs are an ethnic (qaumi or national) community as shown by their Miri-Piri tradition. The Mandla case was taken up with massive community support. Sikhs qualify on the same basis as other national ethnic categories like the current Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi etc.

It is important to understand the problem. When a Sikh ticks any of the current ETHNIC tick boxes, for example Indian, or writes SIKH under OTHER ETHNIC category, he or she is already admitting own ethnicity! It is nonsense to say that Sikhs are above ethnicity categories, because, even under the current system, they are compelled to choose an ethnic category. Some are bent on saying that the Sikhs are a religion only and then they go on to tick Indian as their ethnicity! By doing that some Sikhs, who are against an ethnic tick box are admitting that they do have an ethnicity but their ethnicity is not Sikh but Indian. That seems like self-deception about own true identity in view of Sikhi Miri-Piri tradition and history as a distinct qaum.

About the optional Religion categories in the Census. Firstly, in the 2011 Census, over 20 million UK population did not answer this question because they do not have to, or, they just ticked the first box under this heading, which, quite amazingly, is No Religion! So, not surprisingly, one recent headline reads: Optional religious question in the Census set to become useless as Sikhs wait for High Court judgement.

The religious question was first introduced in the Census 2001 and it was the only question that was made optional by the ONS in 2001 and 2011 as they were concerned about public acceptability of this category. It seems that millions are not ticking this box. Yet, some Sikhs themselves continue to mislead about the optional nature of this box and its irrelevance for collecting accurate statistics about the Sikhs. In any case, ethnicity is the category used for counting or monitoring distinct UK communities and the Sikh qualify legally. Therefore, the Court action. Regrettably, Sikhs had to fight many court battles to safeguard their just rights. This court case is highlighting one of the most important British Sikh issues today.

Gurmukh Singh OBE