The New-Labour Government is trying to get a ‘single equalities bill’ through parliament before the election, which will be held at the latest in May 2010. The legislation bundles all anti-discrimination laws and seeks to apply the same terminology, the same principles and the same types of discrimination (direct/indirect etc) to all equality strands.
The equality laws specifically relevant for Sikhs are the Race Relations Act 2000 and the Equality Act 2006, Chapter 3, part 2 Discrimination on Grounds of Religion or Belief. Sikhs are recognised as a religious group and as a race.
During the passage of the bill through the House of Commons MPs Rob Marris and Jeremy Corbyn tried to introduce caste as a ‘protected characteristic’ which would give caste groups the same protection against discrimination as race or religious groups enjoy. Their attempt failed and we are now trying to convince the House of Lords to adopt the amendment.
Last month the Sikh Study Forum UK organised a meeting with CasteWatch UK, Sikhs in England and SCS Heathrow. Most of the people present agreed that caste discrimination was against Guru’s teachings.
I started a discussion on Sikh News Discussion and also forwarded my emails to other e-groups. There were some really good reactions. Nobody wrote that Sikhs should practice caste discrimination, but many ‘ducked’ the subject and others seemed to try to avoid having to take a stand by concentrating on CasteWatch UK instead of on the issue.
I am not concerned about organisations or individuals. What motivates me are Guru’s Teachings of One God and One humanity. I do not think that you can be a true Sikh and practice or condone caste discrimination. Many people of Sikh background insist that their children should marry somebody of the same caste, we have caste based Gurdwaré and even many Singh Sabhas are dominated by a particular caste.
Guru taught us to just call ourselves Kaur and Singh but many insist on using their last names which in most cases will tell to which caste they belong. In areas with many South Asians, children sometimes use caste as an excuse to be horrid to each other. Sikhs from villages are often more ‘attached’ to caste than Hindus from the cities and towns of Panjab.
All individual Sikhs, all Sikh organisations should support the amendment proposed by Rob Marris and Jeremy Corbyn, which was also supported by other MPs, like Lynne Featherstone. Guru teaches that we should fight against injustice, and discrimination based on who your parents are is a gross injustice. Caste discrimination and Race discrimination are equally foul, if Sikhs speak out we can win this battle !