UK General Election
The Sikh Manifesto
Winston Churchill famously said “the British people are highly indebted and obliged to Sikhs for a long time”. Fifty years on, the Sikhs are calling in this debt.
The General Election in Britain has seen many organisations test the commitment of the nation’s politicians to their voters. UK based Sikh political organisation the Sikh Federation made it a personal quest to do this on behalf of Britain’s 600,000 Sikhs. Created by The Sikh Network, the Sikh Manifesto lists 10 points that the Sikh community wish to have government support on.
Thousands of copies of the Sikh Manifesto have been distributed across the UK. Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband have been personally handed copies. Several political hustings focused on the Sikh Manifesto have taken place. The Sikh community have been very clear to politicians, that only action on key Sikh issues will secure votes.
The 10 key areas (not in any priority order) in the Sikh Manifesto are:
1) More effective representation in Parliament
2) Separate ethnic monitoring of Sikhs
3) Statutory code of practice on the 5ks and Sikh turban
4) Action against perpetrators of grooming and forced conversions
5) Network of state funded Sikh ethos schools
6) Monument in London to highlight Sikh sacrifices in the First World War
7) Independent public inquiry into UK Government actions in the lead up to and after the 1984 Sikh Genocide
8) Pressure on France to stop discrimination against turban wearing Sikhs
9) UN-led inquiry into the 1984 Sikh Genocide
10) Application of self determination to the Sikhs
It is the first manifesto of its kind from within the Sikh community. Sikhs have a long, complicated relationship with the British, having gone from being the last step between the British and completion of their rule of India to being hailed as heroes of the two world wars by none other than Churchill himself. Since then, many have gone on to thrive in Britain and a recent report found the Sikh pound is worth £7.63 billion in the UK..
Describing how the decision to make such a document was made, Sikh Federation member Jas Singh describes the impact of a shocking discovery made early last year.
“The revelations in January 2014 that the Thatcher led government in 1984 had provided military assistance to attack the Sikhs’ holiest shrine in Amritsar that resulted in the genocide of thousands of innocent Sikh pilgrims sent shockwaves through the community. There was a genuine risk many British Sikhs, sickened with the actions of the UK Government 30 years ago, would join those disengaged with British politics and the main political parties.
“However, the Sikh Federation stepped up to the mark and built a cross party alliance of over 200 politicians from across the political spectrum calling for an independent public inquiry. But further revelations on how India had successfully influenced the UK Government to curb democratic British Sikh activities following the 1984 Sikh Genocide suggested the need for a permanent paradigm shift in British government thinking and policy towards the Sikhs.”
Singh was clear on the aim of the manifesto, which has been put across to not only the two leaders of the biggest political parties in the UK, but also the likes of Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, secretary of state William Hague and thousands of voters.
“The outcome of the revelations about 1984 was the formation of the Sikh Network tasked with developing the Sikh Manifesto. Any future UK Government needed to recognise and appreciate the immense past and present Sikh contribution, the community being a role model in terms of integration whilst maintaining a distinct separate identity and address undisputable and specific Sikh concerns.”
The Sikh Network is a collective of over 1,100 Sikh activists from existing Sikh organisations, youth groups, human rights and political activists, lawyers, academics, researchers, journalists, public sector professionals, management consultants, marketing/PR professionals, charity workers and students. The group have championed the document as a way to empower the common Sikh voter, giving each the ability to bring up the community’s concerns with an MP just by handing over the manifesto.
British Sikhs are predicted to have one of the highest voter turnouts of any ethnic community on May 7, at around 80% according to the British Sikh Report. The Sikh Federation have not been afraid to use this, pointing out areas where the Sikh vote will have a real effect on seats that are still being battled for, in areas all over Britain. The Sikh Federation followed up this week by publishing responses from politicians regarding support for the manifesto’s agenda on their social network sites.
The Sikh vote has traditionally gone to Labour. However, David Cameron has made a real effort to win the Sikh vote, visiting two Gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in the run up the election, hoping to win support. However, neither Cameron nor Miliband have come out in support of the Sikh Manifesto.
“Many Labour hopefuls could be done a big favour if Ed Miliband is bold and clarifies what the Labour Party will do with respect to the Sikh Manifesto. 85% of Labour MPs we spoke with have confirmed with that they support nine or more of the issues. Over 50% have gone as far as to support the most debatable item, applicability of self determination to the Sikhs” said Jas Singh.
Aware of the fragility of a political promise in the modern world, the Sikh manifesto is just the beginning of political involvement in the UK from the Sikhs, followers of a religion with a strong political stance within the very core of the ideology of it.
“The Sikh Network, with the help of the Sikh Federation, is developing a regional infrastructure across the UK that will have the capacity to reach over 300 MPs after the May 8. The network will be responsible for measuring progress over the next five years against the issues set out in the Sikh Manifesto”
Link to the Sikh Manifesto is at: http://www.thesikhnetwork.com/sikhmanifesto.php?id=1
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Posted by The Sikh Network on Tuesday, May 5, 2015