July 26, 2018 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Westminster: In just one week in September 2017, nearly 140 MPs from across the political spectrum signed a letter to John Pullinger, Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, who is also responsible for the Office for National Statistics (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.
Iain Bell, Deputy National Statistician confirmed in a meeting in January 2018 with Preet Kaur Gill MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs that the only question that remained to be confirmed was the degree of ‘public acceptability’ within the Sikh community.
The APPG therefore 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 – Preet Kaur Gill, Labour MP for Edgbaston, Eddie Hughes, Conservative MP for Walsall North and Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East met John Pullinger the National Statistician on Monday to discuss the unanimous verdict of Gurdwaras calling for a separate Sikh ethnic tick box to the ‘public acceptability’ question.
The APPG wrote to around 250 UK Gurdwaras five months ago asking them to indicate whether or not they supported the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021. 112 Gurdwaras 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).
In a remarkable show of unity 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.
Preet Kaur Gill MP, the Chair of the APPG for British Sikhs said: “The information we have gathered for the ONS and presented on Monday means the National Statistician must recommend a Sikh ethnic tick box be included in the Census White Paper 2018 later this year or he will have serious explaining to do to MPs, Ministers and the Sikh community.”
“The National Statistician’s decision could result in the UK Statistics Authority and the ONS standing accused of racial discrimination against the Sikh community and facing embarrassing and expensive legal action.”
“The APPG is writing to all MPs with the list of Gurdwaras that have written to call for a separate Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021. We estimate the congregation for these Gurdwaras have constituents covering over 500 MPs.”
“MPs will over the summer wish to reassure the Gurdwaras and their constituents that one way or another they will not allow the ONS to overlook the Sikh community and deny them the right to be recognised as a separate ethnic group.”
“The APPG has already been contacted by Gurdwaras to discuss the establishment of a legal fund of £0.5m if the UK Statistics Authority and ONS need to be taken to the courts.”