image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Sikh Ethnicity Tick Box:

Why link the issue to trade with India?


  • ਐਥਨਿਸਿਟੀ (ethnicity) ਦਾ ਭਾਵ ਨਸਲ  ਨਹੀਂ, ਕੌਮ  ਹੈ - ਪੜ੍ਹੋ ਲਾਰਡ੍ਸ ਦਾ ਫੈਸਲਾ ਇਸ ਕਾਲਮ ਵਿਚ


       British Sikhs have challenged the authorities in the courts for ignoring their legal right and massive Sikh support for an ethnic tick box in Census 2021. The topic is of vital concern to the community and will continue to receive coverage in this column.

Despite all the confusion being spread by some Sikhs themselves, we must remember that an ethnic community in the UK was defined by the Law Lords in 1983: it is any community which shares characteristics like history, culture, common language not necessarily peculiar to the group, literature and religion. Importantly, a group defined by reference to enough of these characteristics would be capable of including converts, for example, persons who marry into the group. This is a very wide inclusive definition which describes a ਕੌਮ as understood in Panjabi. In view of the evidence presented by Sikhs themselves about Sikh history and tradition, it is not surprising that the Law Lords decided unanimously that the Sikhs are a distinct ethnic group.

In the UK, not Religion but Ethnic category is used to count and monitor distinct communities for their rights, equal opportunities and delivery of services. After massive mobilization and united community effort, a historic victory was won in the Lords in 1983. Late Sardar Sewa Singh Mandla has left a written record of the case. The nature of Sikh qaomi identity has not changed today and Sikhs should never say something at one time for the sake of expediency and then change their minds. That is not the Sikh way.

It is quite amazing how some Sikhs themselves are now bent on damaging own community interests. A Sikh organization wrote against Sikh ethnicity tick box by arguing that it is linked to demand for Khalistan and that it can also have a detrimental effect on post-Brexit trade talks with India. That is quite a remarkable reason for opposing Sikh ethnic (ਕੌਮੀ) tick box! Another argument used elsewhere was that if Sikhs are counted then that will mean a loss for the Indian ethnic category count! The twisted logic is that a loss for British Sikhs is OK!

The Sikhs of the 18th century united no matter which Misl took the lead. They did not allow inter-Misl rivalries to divide them when common Panthic goals were concerned. Yet, the British Sikh experience in recent years is that if one jathebandi takes some Panthic initiative, the others sit back and watch or even join the opposition! That should not be the case.

The British Sikh goal today is that Sikhs should be counted and monitored as SIKH and given ethnic (ਕੌਮੀ) tick box in Census 2021 and the forms used by thousands of bodies That requires nationwide Sikh resolutions by all jathebandis in a show of solidarity.

Let me conclude in Panjabi: ਸੈਂਨਸਸ 2021 ਵਿਚ ਕੌਮੀ ਖਾਨਾ ਮਿਲਣ ਨਾਲ ਸਿੱਖ ਕਮਿਊਨਟੀ ਦੀ ਆਪਣੀ ਪਹਿਚਾਣ ਹੋਏਗੀ ਜਿਸ ਨਾਲ  ਵੱਖ ਵੱਖ ਖੇਤਰਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਕਮਿਊਨਟੀ ਹੱਕਾਂ ਸਬੰਧੀ ਜਾਂਚ (monitoring) ਅਤੇ ਉਸ ਵਿਸ਼ਲੇਸ਼ਣ ਦੇ ਅਧਾਰ ਤੇ ਪਾਲਿਸੀ ਸੇਧ ਲਈ ਜਾਂਦੀ ਹੈ। ਇਹ ਸਾਡਾ ਕੌਮੀ ਨਿਸ਼ਾਨਾ ਹੈ, ਕਿਸੇ ਇਕ ਜਥੇਬੰਦੀ ਦਾ ਮਸਲਾ ਨਹੀਂ।

Gurmukh Singh  OBE