Sikhs raise demand for separate identity

The Sikh Federation (UK) plans to voice the concerns of Sikhs who feel let down by the government's hollow promises.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 12:26 IST

The over 700,000 Sikh community in Britain has now launched its own political party. The Sikh Federation (UK) was launched for British Sikhs along with a warning that the government could cause major damage in Labour heartlands unless the wishes of Sikhs are taken more seriously.

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The federation plans to set up branches in each major town and city where Sikhs are in a sizeable number, for example, in Slough, Glasgow and London. However, it does not initially plan to put up its own candidates for local, national or European elections. It will, instead, support any party that represents the community's interest best.

The first issue likely to be taken up rather vigorously relates to the identity. Dabinderjit Singh, a spokesman of the federation, said that the Sikhs are very angry that despite promises from the government, they felt it consistently let them down over issues of identity.

Although Dabinderjit did not mention it, some in the community have been reportedly voicing the demand for a specific identity and not to be called by the generic term "Indians".

Dabinderjit said: "I can name a dozen Labour ministers who have a large number of Sikhs in their constituencies. The Sikh Federation is there to tell them that unless they start helping us, taking up our issues seriously, we will not vote for them."

He has also pointed out that the Conservatives have been very helpful and "very willing to listen, more so than the government."

The formation of the federation has not come as a surprise. Some Sikhs have been asking for a separate categorisation for long and the federation would get support from such people. However,the government would be wary and would want to ensure that any separation from the "Indian" category does not make India feel that Britain is in any way encouraging separatism that might lead to a division within the Indian community in the country.

The Tories, while in the Opposition, can afford to make promises without any responsibility to keep them.

t any responsibility to keep them.

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 21:35 IST