image caption: Gurmukh Singh

New Year 2022: Opportunities & Challenges

Let us start New Year 2022 on a positive note. Independent observers of Sikh history agree that the core belief system of Sikhi enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and as interpreted by Sikh history and tradition, will survive. Success of the Indian farmers agitation led by the egalitarian Khalsa ideology against the draconian laws rushed through the Indian Parliament, has once again shown the Sikhi potential to lead just causes.

However, as is also Sikh history, challenges to Sikh qaumi existence continue.

British Sikhs have become so accustomed to institutional racism over the decades that they hardly feel it now! Confusion spread about Sikh legal right to qaumi identity by some Sikhs themselves in the last Census has come as a surprise and wake-up call for the community. The twin-track Miri-Piri makes Sikhi way of life much more than the Western concept of religion.

For the sake of employment and material progress opportunities, the early Sikh settlers in the UK were compelled to give up their own proud Sikh identity. As a result, the next generations developed a permanent complex about their Sikh background. There has been every pressure on Sikhs to hide their identity as soon as they arrived in the UK &ndash not just their visible identity but also to give up their language and way of life. In attempts to hide their identity, some change their names to Anglicised versions and stop using Singh and Kaur.

Only a systematic collation of evidence in the public domain would show if destruction of Sikh qaumi identity has also been part of UK state policy. The denial of Sikh Qaumi (ethnic) tick box in censuses continues to be an outstanding example of an attempt to make the Sikhs invisible in government statistics and reports despite overwhelming Sikh demand. Recording and raising awareness of institutional racism against British Sikhs is an important task for the surviving early settlers in the UK.

Following initiatives like the Sikh Manifesto laying down British Sikh political objectives for jathebandis, a focussed but limited investigation has been started to collate evidence in the public domain of institutional racism against the Sikhs. The British Sikh Inquiry (BSI) is an ongoing project to preserve an important aspect of Sikh history in the UK. A British Sikh Inquiry (BSI) section was set up on the Sikh Missionary Society UK Website last year. Related article can be read at link: History of Institutional Racism Against British Sikhs ( .

Other important Sikh topics in 2022: The spread of Christianity in Panjab through deceptive exploitation of Sikh identity concerns all Sikhs. There is a realisation in Hindutva politics following the success of the farmers protests that even when divided Sikhs cannot be defeated as a people empowered by an egalitarian ideology. Political moves to win over the Sikhs will continue.

Increasing communication gap between older and next Sikh generations due to use of electronic social media made necessary by Covid 19, is a matter of concern in the running of Gurdwaras and jathebandis. This is at a time when there is a lack of united direction from central Sikh institutions.

Sikh Qaumi activism guided by Sri Guru Granth Sahib should continue as the Sikhs lead by example in promoting universal human values and care of the planet.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Retd