This campaign to turn Sikhi into an 'ethnicity' will divide and split British Sikhs
By Barfi Culture Team
27th July 2018

I don't think British Sikhs realise how divisive and counter-productive this campaign for Sikhs to be classified as an ‘ethnicity’ is.

It will split apart the Sikh community and give others a completely misleading impression of Sikhi.

The campaign is being run by the Sikh Federation UK, which are committed to an independent Sikh state. A Khalistan. They don’t want Sikhs to have to tick 'Indian' as their ethnicity. That’s fine. I don’t agree with the Khalistan campaign but they have a right to their views and I see where they are coming from.

There are two big problems.

Firstly, this strongly implies Sikhi is only for Punjabis.

Ethnicity is defined as the race or background you are born into. You can’t change it. Sikhi is a set of beliefs or a way of looking at the world that you adopt or can reject. You can’t change or reject your ethnicity.

If Sikhi is an ethnicity then it will naturally be associated with Punjabis - because white / black / Punjabi Sikhs cannot be the same ethnicity.

When I debated this with Tan Dhesi MP earlier this year he said it wasn’t an issue because most Sikhs are Punjabi anyway. Can you imagine how white and black Sikhs feel??

Here are some comments I've received on this.

Secondly. That tick-box will not bring any benefits to Sikhs at all. There are an estimated 500,000 Sikhs in the UK. At the last Census just 83,000 ticked 'other' as their ethnicity (17%).

If given the choice, more would tick 'Sikh' as their ethnicity but not that many. When the ONS ran tests in Wolverhampton and West London, ONLY 24% ticked their ethnicity as Sikh. Just a quarter. Undoubtedly many will carry on ticking 'white' or 'black' or 'Indian' as their ethnicity.

The Sikh Federation say this campaign is about giving proper resources and recognition to British Sikhs. So what happens if just 150,000 Sikhs tick that box? Won’t they be counted? Do you think the government will stop helping them? Will the other 350,000 not count?

Of course not. Things will carry on as before. There is absolutely no evidence it will help with counting hate-crime (which can be done already) or alcohol abuse (which is a Punjabi issue, not a Sikh issue) or getting NHS support (which is free!). Ticking that box won't bring Sikhs any special resources or benefits.

If you don’t want to call yourself ‘Indian’ - that’s fine, I have no quarrel with that. But it will divide and confuse Sikhs even more.

It will give the wrong impression of Sikhi - that it is just for Punjabis rather than everyone.
It will make non-Punjabi Sikhs even more marginalised.
It will create division between those who say their ethnicity is also Sikhi, and those who don't.

I won't stay quiet just because some have decided to appoint themselves the 'community leaders'. You shouldn't either. Speak out before its too late.

Get our weekly email on the desi diaspora
Barfi Culture is a (recently launched!) news magazine, covering South Asians living in Europe and North America.

»   Balanced news, informative opinions
»   Celebrating our cultures
»   A platform for people

We publish daily. Get our email or find us on social media (tw: news; fb: culture; insta: images).

Find out more | Tell us your story
Barfi Culture is a news-magazine on South Asians in Europe and North America.
(This is what makes us different)

Editorial Policy | Contact Us