Sikh Federation – Sikhs challenge ministers over plans for next census

Ministers face a legal challenge over a proposal not to include Sikhs in the ethnic groups listed in the 2021 census.

London – UK, 29 May 2019. Lawyers have sent a letter before action on behalf of the Sikh Federation, with the support of more than 120 gurdwaras and Sikh organisations.

The legal letter warns the Cabinet Office that it would be unlawful not to include a Sikh ethnicity tickbox on the form, as was recommended by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last year. The federation claims that the process that preceded the recommendation was unlawful.

In 2011, the UK-wide census recorded about 430,000 Sikhs based on a non-mandatory question about religion. Not all people who would identify as ethnically Sikh identify as religiously Sikh. The Sikh Federation estimates that there are 700,000 to 800,000 ethnic Sikhs in the UK.

The ONS says that the results from a census provide “information that government needs to develop policies, plan and run public services, and allocate funding” and the federation argues it is vital that the ethnic Sikh population is properly accounted for.

Rosa Curling, a solicitor at the London law firm Leigh Day, which is acting for the Sikhs, said: “Our clients have identified a number of flaws within the process for determining whether to include a Sikh ethnicity category in the 2021 Census.

“They believe it is crucial that individuals are able to identify as ethnically Sikh in the next census to ensure a more accurate picture of the community is taken. This will ensure public bodies are fulfilling their duties under the Equality Act when making decisions about the allocation of vital public services.”

A spokesperson for the ONS said: “No group will be missed out in the digital-first 2021 Census. The ONS recommendations follow extensive research and consultation with groups and individuals and everyone who wishes to identify as Sikh will be able to do so.

The religion question will have a specific Sikh tickbox response option and everyone who wishes to identify as Sikh in response to the ethnicity question will be able to do so through a write-in option.. We believe these proposals will enable public bodies to work with the Sikh community in shaping public services to meet their needs.”

The census order, setting out the questions that will be asked in 2021, will be introduced to parliament in the autumn.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sikhs-challenge-ministers-over-plans-for-next-census-k3hrsb8hc

Sikh Federation – Cabinet Office Minister sensing support from MPs leaves door open on Sikh ethnic tick box for Census 2021

London – UK, 18 December 2018. Preet Kaur Gill MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs, today challenged the Cabinet Office Minister, Chloe Smith on the floor of the House of Commons.

The issue she raised was the Office for National Statistics (ONS) failure to propose the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021 in the Census White Paper published by the government last Friday.

The Census 2021, could be the last ever Census so the Sikh community is determined to ensure Parliamentarians appreciate the significance of having a Sikh ethnic tick box.

Preet pointed out that “thirty-five years ago, in a unanimous five-nil judgment, the Law Lords ruled that Sikhs were an ethnic group and protected from discrimination. However, the results of the Prime Minister’s race disparity audit contained no data whatsoever relating to Sikhs.

The Office for National Statistics only requires public bodies to collect and monitor data relating to ethnic groups specified in the census, and the Government’s White Paper fails to include a Sikh ethnic tick-box.”

Preet asked the Minister to commit herself to meeting the APPG and to the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick-box in the Census Order, to bring an end to decades of discrimination against the Sikh community.

Chloe Smith, the Minister responsible confirmed she was happy to meet Preet and her colleagues from the APPG. Recognising the large cross-party support for the Sikh community on this issue the Minister passed blame for the Census White Paper to the ONS.

Over 40,000 public bodies have been required for the last 20 years to collect and monitor data relating to ethnic groups to eliminate racial discrimination. The Prime Minister’s first ever Race Disparity Audit showed a few months ago huge problems with data gaps.

In a legal challenge by the Sikh Federation (UK) 8 years ago the ONS accepted Sikhs were an ethnic group but used the excuse that the paper questionnaire did not have enough space. This is no longer an issue as the Census in 2021 will largely be online.

MPs across the political spectrum, perhaps as many as 350 (a majority) according to the Sikh Federation (UK), are supportive of the arguments presented as they recognise there is overwhelming support within the community for a Sikh ethnic tick box.

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) responding to the development said:

“When Preet asked the question and urged the Government to include a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census Order before it is presented in the Commons many MPs on all sides were visibly supportive.”

“We are pleased the Minister has agreed to engage with the APPG and its Chair on this issue.”

“However, the ONS role ended when it made its proposals in the White Paper. The matter is now out of their hands and the government and MPs must present and approve the Census Order.”

“When the Draft Census Order was presented 10 years ago and debated in the House of Commons an amendment was proposed to include “Cornish” but was not approved.”

“If the Draft Census Order is not changed by the Cabinet Office to include a Sikh ethnic tick box before it is presented in the Commons we are confident that we will have sufficient cross-party support to be successful in securing an amendment.”

“Cabinet Office Ministers will in the next nine months have to listen to MPs on the many failings of the ONS in excluding the Sikh ethnic tick box in their proposals and decide what is the right thing to do from a legal and Parliamentary perspective.”

“The Sikh case has legal, community and political backing. We have not come across a single MP prepared to oppose a Sikh ethnic tick box. They know to do so would be ignoring the legal status of Sikhs and they do not want to be seen as racially discriminating against the Sikh community.”

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

sikh federation sikhfederationuk@yahoo.co.uk
To:sikh_news_discussion@yahoogroups.com

Sikh Federation – UK Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations meet and unanimously back separate Sikh ethnic tick box in Census 2021

London – UK, 03 September 2018. The Sikh Council UK facilitated an open community wide Panthic meeting inviting all Gurdwaras, Sikh organisations and individual members of the Sikh community.

The urgent meeting called with just a couple of days notice was necessary following revelations in the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission Report.

Over 50 Gurdwaras and organisations were represented and unanimously passed a strongly worded resolution condemning the sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

Those present from Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations were also provided an update on the campaign for a Sikh ethnic tick box for the Census 2021 and a handful of individuals trying to undermine the community demand.

A resolution was passed affirming Sikhs are a distinct Quom (Nation) as well as a religion and supported the call for a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021.

The resolution made reference to the historic Mandla v Dowell Lee case 35 years ago and the law of the land being incontrovertible that Sikhs constitute a distinct ethnic group.

The meeting resolved for a submission in support of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021 on behalf of Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations in attendance to be sent to the UK Statistics Authority, Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Cabinet Office and copied to the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs before a final decision is made for the census White Paper 2018.

Bhai Amrik Singh, Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:

“The UK Statistics Authority and ONS are well aware of the demand for a Sikh ethnic tick box from over 83,000 individuals in the last Census, 93.5% of respondents to the UK Sikh Survey and unanimous support from all 112 Gurdwaras that completed returns for MPs to submit to the ONS.”

“The resolution at the Panthic meeting simply reinforced what they already know. They have taken legal advice regarding Sikhs and Jews constituting ethnic groups. Their submission to the Cabinet Office for the Census White Paper 2018 cannot ignore the legal position, community demand and cross-party political support.”

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)
Sikh Federation <sikhfederationuk@yahoo.co.uk>

Sikh Federation – Conservative government turning blind eye to hate crimes targeting Sikhs and our Gurdwaras

Edinburgh – Lothian – Scotland, 28 August 2018. At around 5am this morning Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Edinburgh was subject to a petrol bomb attack.

Whilst no-one was injured the fire caused extensive smoke damage to the Gurdwara building.

Thankfully the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy Sikh scriptures or the living Guru of the Sikhs was not damaged.

Detectives believe the attack was deliberate and a hate crime, although local Sikhs have an excellent relationship with other communities.

Bhai Narinderjit Singh, the General Secretary of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:

“This is not the first arson attack on a Gurdwara. They often come in the aftermath of a terror attack and in what has popularly become known as ‘mistaken identity’ as Sikhs have never been involved in terror attacks”.

“The police and other authorities must take these arson attacks seriously as they are designed to cause injury and possible death”.

“The perpetrators must be found and prosecuted”.

“The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has called the attack appalling and said she stands in solidarity with the wonderful and valued Sikh community that has her support”.

“Richard Leonard, the leader for Scottish Labour has called the attack a ‘deplorable act of violence against Edinburgh’s Sikh community’, but the Conservatives North and South of the border appear to have been silent”.

“We expected Ruth Davidson to condemn the attack and show support for the Sikh community. Why is the Sikh community invisible to her? She has said absolutely nothing”.

“Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary and James Brokenshire the Communities Secretary have also said nothing. Even Lord Bourne the junior minister responsible for faith communities has had his lips sealed”.

“The Hate Crime Action Plan focused on religious communities and was published by the government more than two years ago in July 2016 after the Brexit vote. This was issued jointly by the then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd and the then Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, who completely overlooked the existence of the Sikh community and hate crimes we have faced. It focused largely on Islamophobia and Antisemitism”.

“We have had excuse after excuse by the Conservative government for the oversight and been promised an updated plan. We are still waiting two years later. In the meantime Sikhs and our religious institutions continue to be attacked”.

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)
<sikhfederationuk@yahoo.co.uk>

Sikh Federation – India needs to accept the long standing demand for a Sikh homeland is gaining political support

London – UK, 05 August 2018. The Sikh Federation (UK) has written to the Sunday Times responding to an article published earlier today with the sensational headline “Assassination suspect plans Sikh separatist rally in Britain”.

A shorter version of the letter may be published by The Times, but the full letter being shared with other media outlets that may also run stories based on the Sunday Times article reads:

We were most disturbed by your sensational headline “Assassination suspect plans Sikh separatist rally in Britain”.

Anyone living in the UK has the right to peacefully protest provided you have obtained the necessary permissions from relevant authorities.

We assume the organisers, USA based Sikhs For Justice, obtained the necessary permissions/licences from the Greater London Authority for the event in Trafalgar Square next week before publicising the event.

The so-called ‘Referendum 2020’ campaign launched more than four years ago in the USA is nothing more than an unofficial opinion poll and another small step to raise awareness on the treatment of Sikhs by the Indian authorities and the continued demand for a Sikh homeland.

As usual the Indian authorities are over reacting to the Sikh Diaspora and resorting to misinformation.
Since 1966 the Indian state in accepting the right to self determination at the UN imposed an unacceptable ‘reservation’ that it could not apply to the people of India. No doubt fearing a break up of the country with a number of legitimate secessionist movements.

The right of self-determination is a basic human right and absolutely fundamental to the protection of individual rights. The vast majority if not all UK politicians support this right based on international law.

The Sikhs right to self determination is helpfully summarised in the Sikh Manifesto. We have engaged with UK MPs from all political parties, Ministers and shadow ministers, foreign governments and those at the UN. They have all responded positively to the arguments presented.

UK Government ministers of different political persuasion in meetings with us have also acknowledged the historical context as Sikhs were the third party with whom the British negotiated the transfer of power in 1947.

There is also a recognition that Clement Attlee’s Labour government at that time offered Sikhs a separate homeland. The Indian authorities are therefore extremely sensitive and suspicious, as we are well aware, of anything happening in Britain that vaguely promotes the demand for a Sikh homeland.

However, calls for the reestablishment of a sovereign Sikh state, given the 1849 British annexation of the largest sovereign Sikh state that existed for 50 years and was recognised by all the world powers are not new.

In the period leading up to the creation of India and Pakistan in 1947 several resolutions were passed by Sikhs for an independent Sikh State.

On 20 August 1944, the All Parties Sikh Conference passed a resolution for an independent Sikh state. On 10 March 1946 the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), an elected representative body of Sikhs passed a resolution for the formation of an independent Sikh state.

On 22 March 1946, the Shiromani Akali Dal the representative political party of the Sikhs at that time, passed a resolution for an independent Sikh state.

Politicians and a number of governments across the globe understand the mistreatment and discrimination of the Sikhs since partition in 1947. They are also aware of the peaceful agitation by Sikhs for greater autonomy in the 1970s and 1980s and the Indian regimes’ brutal response ultimately resulting in the 1984 Sikh Genocide.

This was followed by a decade of false encounters, torture and extrajudicial killings by Indian police and paramilitary forces for which the Sikhs have had no justice.

In our view the reestablishment of a Sikh homeland is inevitable with the Sikh Diaspora leading the way and gaining the direct support of world powers like the USA and China with a vested interest and countries like the UK, Germany, Canada and Australia to name a few, also playing their part…

Both India and Pakistan know they will in due course be forced to break apart and a strong and resourceful Sikh homeland extending well beyond ‘Indian occupied Punjab’ respecting the rights of all living there will emerge.

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

Published from Notre Dame du Chant d’Oiseau
1150 Brussel/Bruxelles

Sikh Federation – UK Sikhs on verge of securing Sikh ethnic tick box for Census 2021

London – UK, 22 July 2018. In the Census 2011 more than 83,000 Sikhs rejected all the existing ethnic tick boxes, including ‘Indian’ and chose instead to tick ‘other’ and write Sikh. This provided the strongest indication possible that Sikhs who complete the census form wanted a Sikh ethnic tick box and not to be labelled Indians.

In the official Office for National Statistics (ONS) consultation in 2015 and 2016 for the Census 2021 it received requests for 55 additional ethnic tick boxes, including requests for a Sikh ethnic tick box from leading Sikh organisations, like the Sikh Federation (UK), linked to Gurdwaras, the main religious institutions that Sikhs regularly attend.

The findings of the UK Sikh Survey 2016, the largest survey of Sikhs that had over 4,500 respondents, was conducted by The Sikh Network and shared with ONS. It found 93.5% of all Sikh respondents wanted the inclusion of a separate Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021.

In September 2017 in just one week nearly 140 MPs signed a letter to John Pullinger, Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, who is also responsible for the ONS calling for the inclusion of Sikh as an ethnic group, as well as a religion, on the 2021 census form.

MPs indicated the number of MPs could easily have been doubled or tripled given the level of cross-party support for the Sikh community on this issue.

After national and international publicity surrounding support by MPs a handful of individuals in the Sikh community no doubt encouraged by the Indian High Commission, including one un-elected member of the House of Lords, woke up to the fact that the ONS were to make a decision in 2018 on whether or not to introduce a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021.

There was no opposition to a Sikh ethnic tick box in the official consultation, but ONS entertained the idea there might be some opposition that resulted in the ONS hosting a large meeting in London on 23 October 2017 regarding a Sikh ethnic tick box.

The ONS write up of the meeting states “at the meeting there was strong support for option 1 (to include a Sikh tick box in the ethnicity question and the religion question) over the other options suggested. In a vote taken at the end of the meeting only two (the Lord and his assistant) people voted against option 1.”

Following a stakeholder event at the QEII Centre on 13 December 2017 ONS stated it had reduced the number of groups being considered for an additional ethnic tick box to four groups (Jewish, Roma, Sikh and Somali), but ONS said it needed to undertake further work before making recommendations for the Census White Paper 2018.

At a meeting with ONS in February 2018 Iain Bell, the Deputy National Statistician confirmed to Preet Kaur Gill MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs, that the need for Sikh ethnicity data had been identified and ONS were taking further advice on their legal duties.

MPs have repeated Sikhs were declared a distinct ethnic group following the historic unanimous 5:0 judgement 35 years ago in the Mandla v Dowell Lee case (1983) in the House of Lords and this could not be ignored by the ONS.

Furthermore, the census categories determined by ONS and associated advice given by the ONS to public bodies on monitoring meant Sikhs were being discriminated against as they were deliberately being overlooked by decision makers, as highlighted by the Prime Minister’s first annual Race Disparity Audit that confirmed in October 2017 no data was being collected on Sikhs.

Iain Bell confirmed that the only question that remained to be confirmed was the degree of ‘public acceptability’ within the Sikh community. The APPG agreed with Iain Bell that the best way to do this was to write to the management committees of each of the 250 Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship in the UK) asking them to indicate whether or not they supported the proposal for a separate Sikh ethnic tick box.

Iain Bell suggested if 60% or more of Gurdwaras that responded were in favour this would be sufficient for the ONS.

MPs belonging to the APPG are due to meet John Pullinger the National Statistician on Monday 23 July to discuss the responses to the ‘public acceptability’ question.

The APPG wrote to around 250 UK Gurdwaras asking them to indicate whether or not they supported the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021. 112 Gurdwaras have individually responded to the request by the APPG. The APPG asked each Gurdwara to complete a return and indicate its official membership and the approximate size of their Sangat (or congregation).

All 112 Gurdwaras, that include all the largest Gurdwaras in the UK, have indicated they are in favour of a separate Sikh ethnic tick box.

Gurdwaras large and small have responded from all 12 regions of the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and cover the widest spectrum within the community e.g. Singh Sabha Gurdwaras, Ramgharia Gurdwaras, Bhatra Gurdwaras and Ravidas Gurdwaras.

The 112 Gurdwaras have indicated they have a combined official membership of more than 107,000 Sikhs over the age of 18 and total weekly congregations or Sangat of nearly 470,000.

This information means the ONS will almost certainly recommend to the Cabinet Office that a Sikh ethnic tick box must be included in the Census White Paper 2018.

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:

“The ONS cannot overlook the huge protest by over 83,000 Sikhs in the Census 2011 who rejected all existing options and wrote Sikh.”

“The official consultations by the ONS in 2015 and 2016 showed there was a demand for a Sikh ethnic tick box and no one objected.”

“We have the support of at least 250 MPs from across the political spectrum for our demand.”

“The ONS has taken legal advice and they know they cannot simply ignore the legal recognition of Sikhs as an ethnic group.”

“The final ONS test was one of public acceptability and our main religious institutions have spoken with one voice with 100% backing for a separate Sikh ethnic tick box.”

“ONS will now have to recommend a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census White Paper later this year.”

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)
Sikh Federation <sikhfederationuk@yahoo.co.uk>

Sikh Federation – British Indians revive action over tricolour desecration in UK

Posted to Sikh News Discussion

London – UK, 12 May 2018. The Sikh Federation (UK) has written to the PTI journalist and shared a letter to the Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB) that has asked them not to spread untruths and make an apology.

The Sikh Federation (UK) will issue a press release on Sunday before the meeting arranged by Virendra Sharma MP in Parliament and the handing of so-called photographic and video evidence to 10 Downing Street on Monday.

The press release will also deal with the farcical suggestion or threat that India may take the UK to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

British Indians revive action over tricolour desecration in UK

The New Indian Express – The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said the Indian government was “deeply anguished” over the incident.

London – UK, 11 May 2018. Indian community groups here plan to reach out directly to British Prime Minister Theresa May for action within three weeks against protestors responsible for the desecration of India’s national flag during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s UK visit last month.

On April 18, during the bilateral leg of Modi’s visit to the UK, some protesters at Parliament Square turned aggressive during which the Indian Tricolour was torn down from one of the official flagpoles set up for all 53 Commonwealth countries to mark the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and ripped up by some protesters.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said the Indian government was “deeply anguished” over the incident.

“We expect action, including legal action, against the people involved in the incident and also people responsible for instigating the incident,” an MEA spokesperson said at the time.

The Scotland Yard had registered a case of assault in relation to the incident and continues to investigate.

“We received an allegation of assault on April 19 relating to an incident in Parliament Square on April 18.

No arrests

Enquiries continue,” a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, an online petition on change.org website launched by the Friends of India Society International (FISI) in UK demanding action against the “culprits who brought down Indian flag and torn under the watchful eyes of British police” has attracted nearly 22,000 of the 25,000 target signatures.

“We are preparing a detailed presentation, including all the evidence gathered from social media and other sources, and will be handing it over for the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street on Monday,” said Pravin Patel, of the Sardar Patel Memorial Society.

His group has found the backing of a senior Indian Supreme Court advocate, E V Venugopal, who has set a timeline of three weeks for the British government to take decisive action after which he plans to take the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a “crime against humanity”.

“We will knock on the doors of justice and make our representation to the British government.

We don’t ask for sympathy.

We want action against this hate crime, as per the law of the land.

The pride of my country is at stake,” Venugopal said.

Based on social media evidence, the group wants the British government to take action against the pro-Khalistani groups behind the incident.

“These Khalistani elements are encouraging terrorism on this soil.

This conspiracy of terrorist groups should be highlighted because they are waging war against India which can spill over into England as well,” added Venugopal.

The perpetrators, caught on camera with the tricolour, were pro-Khalistani demonstrators brought together with Kashmiri separatist groups under the banner of the so-called “Minorities Against Modi” group, led by Pakistani-origin peer Lord Ahmed.

A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spokesperson said the UK government had been in touch with the Indian High Commission soon after the incident.

“While people have the right to hold peaceful protests, we are disappointed with the action taken by a small minority in Parliament Square and contacted High Commissioner Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha as soon as we were made aware,” a spokesperson said.

A senior broadcast journalist from one of the leading Indian media channels covering the protests was also caught up in the scrum and has had her police complaint with the Met Police registered as a hate crime.

On Monday, veteran Indian-origin MP Virendra Sharma has called a meeting over the issue in a House of Commons committee room to evaluate further steps.

Venugopal and other Indian community groups are planning to join that meeting following their Downing Street visit.

“They have tried to create an atmosphere of hate in this country, which respects freedom of speech.

The use of British land by such disruptive elements should not be left unchecked because it could lead to worse scenarios and escalate further,” said Dr Anand Arya, spokesperson for the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP).

The Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB), an umbrella body of over 400 Hindu organisations in the UK, has also written to the UK Home Secretary calling for action against the Lord Ahmed and Sikh Federation UK for the “hate crime” against British citizens during the protests.

The Sikh Federation, UK termed the entire incident an “over reaction” to an “impromptu removal of the Indian flag”.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2018/may/11/british-indians-revive-action-over-tricolour-desecration-in-uk-1813385.html