image caption: Gurmukh Singh

UK’s Nationality and Borders Law Can Take Away British Nationality Without Notice

  • Almost six million people from ethnic minority backgrounds could be affected by the proposed clause.

  • UN Refugee Agency believes that UK will create an unfair two-tier system in violation of international law

  • British Sikhs need nationwide strategy to defend their democratic rights.

No matter what the specific justifications given for new legislation to win popular support, the question for minorities always is if a law can be exploited by the government to supress just democratic activism.

Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill exempts the government from giving notice of a decision to deprive a person of citizenship if it is not reasonably practical to do so or if such a move is in the public interest. Thus, a person can be deprived of British citizenship without warning for any public interest reason when the Home Secretary decides what is public interest! This is a dangerous and unjust law for minorities.

Sikh experience over the centuries is that no matter where they live, they cannot take their freedom and rights for granted. Some would argue that if we are hard-working law-abiding citizens then we have nothing to be concerned about. That is not true in the real world of international politics and trade-offs in which minority communities like the Sikhs can be used as political pawns.

Sikhs need to be continually vigilant about new laws which affect minorities. More so as many Western governments are swayed by right wing public opinion. Well-settled minority communities are threatened by majority rule when democratic safeguards fail. Often such safeguards do fail and court challenges are necessary.

The only option for the Sikhs is to engage in and support community activism which empowers Panthic political presence and ability for self-defence as well as for Sarbatt-da-Bhalaa. The all-India farmers protest led by Sikhi ideals has shown the way and also repeated Khalsa history. Some tunnel-vision academics and those who believe Sikhi to be a religion only, or those jealous of Sikh organisations with grassroots support, scoff at peaceful lobbying, demonstrations, and legal action through law courts which are essential processes in any democracy.

In September, when the court dismissed the Home Office appeal to extradite three Sikhs from West Midlands to India, I wrote: In one sense, it is victory of justice that the three Sikhs are now free. In another sense, State harassment to discourage lawful human rights activism has succeeded also. Despite no police action since the original investigation in 2011 when no evidence was found against these three men, they were arrested again in 2020. They remained under threat of extradition for eleven years and their families suffered with them. The question is if the Home Office decision to start this court case was politically motivated in view of the background of post-Brexit trade-related talks last year.

The State will always seek to curb human rights by getting increased general powers. These can be through laws, for example, against terrorism or mass immigration, but then they can be used against communities like the Sikhs to secure political and/or trade deals. Such laws should be resisted preferably at draft stage otherwise, through Parliamentary lobbies and, if need be, by peaceful protests.

British Sikhs do need nationwide vigilance, pooling of legal expertise and supporting organisation to defend their democratic rights.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Retd