British MPs back Sikh demand for separate ethnic identity in census
Campaigners say UK’s Race Relations Act gives them right to be able to identify themselves separately from current census options, such as Indian or British Indianpunjab Updated: Sep 13, 2017 12:33 IST
More than 100 British MPs have asked the UK Statistics Authority to include Sikh as a separate ethnic box for the 2021 census to give the community a fair access to all public services in the country. The MPs include Indian-origin lawmakers Virendra Sharma, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Preet Kaur Gill, Seema Malhotra and Keith Vaz.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs, alongside the Sikh Federation UK, are leading calls for the change. The Sikh body recalled that in 2002, an Early Day Motion on the subject was tabled in the House of Commons and received support from 174 MPs, including current Prime Minister Theresa May and former premier David Cameron.
The letter to John Pullinger, the UK national statistician and head of the Government Statistical Service, released on Tuesday, states: “Sikhs are a legally recognised ethnic group and have been protected under the UK law following a House of Lords ruling in 1983. A number of issues faced by Sikhs ranging from the reporting of hate crimes through to accessing healthcare provisions in the UK are not receiving appropriate attention by public bodies as they often only monitor ethnic group categories specified in the census.”
“The minority Sikh community has therefore been campaigning in the last two censuses for inclusion of a separate Sikh ethnic tick box for the compulsory ethnicity question,” the letter reads.
The letter states that in the 2011 census, around 84,000 Sikhs objected to the existing ethnic group categories by using the write-in option and specifying “Sikh”.
A separate Sikh category in the forthcoming census will also provide a better estimate of the community in the UK, the letter adds.
“I believe that wherever possible, it is right that people should be given the opportunity to identify themselves. There are more than 4 lakh Sikhs in the UK, but there is no way to track them without a separate box on the census,” said Virendra Sharma, one of senior-most Indian-origin Labour MPs in the British Parliament, who is among the 113 signatories of the letter.
The authority oversees the Office of National Statistics (ONS) had revealed it was undertaking research on adding Sikh and Kashmiri as separate ethnic tick boxes in the 2021 census earlier this year. “We are a long way off as there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to ensure that the census held every 10 years collects all the right information,” an ONS spokesperson said.
“Ethnicity is just one aspect of this research and Sikhs and Kashmiris are among a number of requests we received,” the spokesperson said. The MPs welcomed the research in their letter and claimed the demand within the British Sikh community is “both high and continuing to grow”.
Sikhs are a legally recognised ethnic group under the UK’s Race Relations Act, 1976, and campaigners for the change believe this gives them a right to be able to identify themselves separately from current census options, such as Indian or British Indian.
“Local authorities with huge Sikh populations are not recording data that will assist public health professionals to ensure services are being delivered that are being targeted correctly for communities,” said Preet Kaur Gill, the first female British Sikh MP.
(with PTI inputs)