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The Sikh Agenda for the UK Government
To: UK Government (Ministers, Government Departments and agencies)
From: UK Sikh Community
CC: Members of Parliament, MEPs and the Parliamentary All-Party Panjabis in Britain Group
Date: September 2001
1. The Sikh Agenda for the UK Government was formally agreed by the UK Sikh community at a convention held at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Wolverhampton on 16 September 2001. Over 10,000 Sikhs took part in the convention along with Sikh community leaders from over 120 Gurdwaras and over 40 other Sikh organisations .
2. Around 200 Members of Parliament including many in the Cabinet were invited to take part in the convention. The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary, to name a few, whilst unable to attend the convention wrote to pass on their best wishes for it to be a success and welcomed the idea of a Sikh Agenda and the concept of a Sikh Secretariat to co-ordinate activities.
3. Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader, specifically pledged support for the Sikh Agenda by asking Malcolm Harbour, a Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, to deliver this message in person at the convention. Similarly, the Liberal Democrat Leader and Party Chairman, Charles Kennedy and Lord Dholakia, as well as the President of the Scottish National Party (Dr Winnie Ewing) and Leader for the Party of Wales (Ieuan Wyn Jones) all sent their best wishes for the convention and welcomed the Sikh Agenda as long overdue.
4. A number of Members of Parliament and MEPs were present to witness and take part in this historic event. Comments on the Sikh Agenda, made by the MPs present, were appreciated and have been reflected in the final wording of agenda items.
5. The Sikh Agenda is for, the UK Government, Members of Parliament, MEPs and Sikh organisations, to progress jointly over the next 5 years so that the UK Sikh community can play a more effective role in the multicultural British society and in the spirit of unity in diversity. The agenda also aims to promote British-Sikh relations globally.
6. This document is divided into 3 sections:
· Why have a Sikh Agenda?
· What are the key features of the Sikh Agenda?
· How will it all work?
7. The key features of the Sikh Agenda are grouped under the following 8 headings:
· Agenda Item 1 - British Sikhs and the establishment
· Agenda Item 2 - Government funding for Sikh organisations
· Agenda Item 3 - Promotion of the Sikh identity & the Panjabi language
· Agenda Item 4 - Establishment of State funded Sikh schools
· Agenda Item 5 - Preserving Sikh heritage
· Agenda Item 6 - Protecting human rights of Sikhs & humanitarian aid
· Agenda Item 7 - Self determination for the Sikh Nation
· Agenda Item 8 - Lifting the ban on International Sikh Youth Federation
Why have a Sikh Agenda?
1. The Sikh faith is the third largest in the UK and the fifth largest in the world according to the United Nations, with Panjabi being the second language of London and England. The 600,000 strong British Sikh community is keen to play a more effective part in British society as one of the most important ethnic minorities in the UK. In the global context, the British Sikh community is the largest Sikh community outside Panjab, the Sikh homeland. The Sikh community, due to its numbers and commitment to strong religious and cultural values has the potential to constitute one of the most influential lobby groups in the UK.
2. In recent months the UK Government has taken the unprecedented step of banning two Sikh organisations. This has strained community relations and highlighted the need to restore the good name of the Sikh community and to prevent such events from reoccurring by providing an effective framework for timely consultations. The Sikh community needs to be given greater opportunities and encouraged to play a more active and responsible part in British society.
3. A considerable amount of good work is being carried out by numerous Sikh organisations throughout the UK, however the Sikh community has not agreed a Sikh Agenda in the past. The Sikh community's approach to the UK Government needs to be more effectively organised and co-ordinated so as to be better able to present issues of concern to the Sikh community and to promote the unique association between Sikhs and the UK.
4. To improve transparency and accountability a comprehensive, coherent and achievable Sikh Agenda has been formulated and agreed by the community with the full backing of Sikh Gurdwaras and other Sikh organisations. The Sikh Secretariat started consultation with the Sikh community and prominent Sikh organisations on the contents and wording of the agenda several months ago. This was achieved through advertisements in the Panjabi press, meetings, focus groups and communication via Sikh e-groups. This culminated in the international convention held on 16 September where the Sikh Agenda was formally endorsed.
5. Sikh organisations and their representatives backed up by the Sikh community and Sikh Secretariat will be nominated to take forward relevant parts of the agenda. The Sikh Agenda enables the community to monitor progress by the UK Government (and its agencies) and to assess its ability to meet the needs of its Sikh citizens. It also makes Sikh organisations and their representatives more accountable for their actions.
What are the key features of the Sikh Agenda?
1. The Sikh Agenda is an 8-point agenda which sets out the agreed aims and objectives of the UK Sikh community and is specifically directed at the UK Government, Members of Parliament, MEPs and the Parliamentary All-Party Panjabis in Britain Group.
2. The Sikh Agenda is summarised below:
Agenda Item 1: British Sikhs and the establishment
To seek fair representation of British Sikhs in the establishment at local and national levels including local and central government and in Parliament and further to ensure fair recruitment and employment policies and practices in the public and private sector services e.g. local and central government services, the Police and the Armed Forces.
1. To encourage British Sikhs, particularly practising Sikhs, to actively participate in British politics at national and local levels with a view to securing a greater Sikh representation of MPs, MEPs, Lords and councillors.
2. To encourage Government to secure effective participation and representation by British Sikhs in the various public service sectors and decision making bodies at local and national levels.
3. To work with the Government to provide British Sikhs greater opportunities for employment in public services at local and national level and to promote the right recruitment, selection and, where relevant, employment policies and procedures to ensure that there is no prejudicial treatment against Sikhs ensuring that the Sikh identity is fully accepted and respected.
4. To advise the Government to ensure Sikhs do not continue to suffer institutional racism by major employers in the public and private sector e.g. British Energy.
Agenda Item 2: Government funding for Sikh organisations
To secure for Sikh organisations and Sikh projects a "fair" share of Government funding made funding available to voluntary, charitable, community and religious organisations and further to encourage the Government to ensure funding provided by the independent distributing bodies is within a framework of Government policy directions that provides a fair distribution to British Sikhs as one of the most important ethnic minorities in the UK.
1. To undertake research regarding direct and indirect UK Government funding available to voluntary, charitable, community and religious organisations and with the help of the UK Government help raise the awareness of Sikh organisations about the different sources of funding for Sikh projects.
2. To encourage the UK Government to provide Sikh organisations a "fair" share of Government funding that is made available for voluntary, charitable, community and religious organisations that takes account of the size of the Sikh community and extensive contributions by the Sikh community to Exchequer funds.
3. With the help of the UK Government and its agencies to provide advice and assistance to Sikh organisations on how best to obtain funds from different sources within government.
4. To encourage Sikh organisations and the UK Government to take actions to secure at least 1% or around £20 million of the annual funding from the independent distributing bodies for Sikh organisations and Sikh projects.
Agenda Item 3: Promotion of the Sikh identity and the Panjabi language
To promote the distinct Sikh religion, history, culture and ethnic identity while respecting other religions and cultures and to achieve greater recognition for the Panjabi language in the UK.
1. To work with the UK Government to ensure there is a better understanding of the Sikh religion in government institutions and to ensure that the UK legislative and legal framework fully recognises the right of Sikhs to practise their religion and fully respects the visible Sikh identity and articles of faith that are an essential part of the Sikh religion.
2. To urge the Government that the British Sikh Community is given fair treatment by being monitored as a separate ethnic group category.
3. To lobby the UK Government to ensure there are no legal or social pressures on the Sikhs to part with their articles of faith at work and at any public or business place.
Agenda Item 4: Establishment of State funded Sikh schools
To seek the establishment of a network of State funded Sikh schools in locations where there is a need in terms of promoting spiritual and cultural awareness of Sikh principles.
1. To advise on proposals for Sikh denominational schools in the maintained sector in various locations in the UK and to lobby the UK Government to accept a sufficient number of proposals commensurate with the Sikh faith being the third largest faith in the UK and the existence of only one Sikh denominational school compared to almost 7,000 for other faiths.
2. To work with local Members of Parliament, MEPs and local and central government to ensure appropriate sites are provided for Sikh Schools.
3. To lobby the UK Government to provide maximum financial assistance for the establishment and operation of Sikh schools.
4. To work with the UK Government and Local Education Authorities to remove misleading statements about the Sikh religion in school materials and further to encourage teaching of the Panjabi language in main-stream schools, with 20 or more Panjabi children present in the school.
Agenda Item 5: Preserving Sikh Heritage
To preserve Sikh Heritage and ensure the UK Government and its agencies play a significant role in helping the Sikh community with its projects to preserve Sikh Heritage.
1. To work with the UK Government and its agencies to promote a wider appreciation of the enormously rich cultural heritage of the Sikh Nation.
2. With the help of the UK Government to catalogue, photograph, digitise and conserve Guru Granth Sahib manuscripts, particularly those written at the time of the Gurus or by the Gurus themselves.
3. To work with the UK Government and its agencies, such as English Heritage, to develop a co-ordinated approach to the establishment of a network of Sikh Museums in the UK and develop a national database of artefacts kept in the UK.
4. To lobby the UK Government and relevant UN bodies to designate appropriate Sikh sites as World Heritage sites so they can be properly preserved for future generations.
Agenda Item 6: Protecting the human rights of Sikhs and humanitarian aid
To ensure the UK Government exert pressure on the Indian authorities to allow UN representatives and independent international human rights organisations free access to investigate and report on the widespread abuse of human rights of Sikhs and other minorities and to provide humanitarian aid to those who have suffered human rights abuses and state oppression in India.
1. To produce short theme based reports and briefing papers for the UK Government and Parliamentarians to highlight the atrocities committed against the Sikhs, Christians, low caste Hindus, Muslims etc.
2. To regularly provide specific Members of Parliament and MEPs with details of individual cases of abuse of human rights to be taken up with the UK Government.
3. To organise a series of Sikh Lobby Days' in the Houses of Parliament to highlight the widespread abuse of human rights of Sikhs and other minorities. For example, later this year a Sikh Lobby Day will highlight the lack of justice following the massacre of tens of thousands of Sikhs in India by well-orchestrated gangs in November 1984.
4. To encourage the UK Government, EU bodies and relevant UN bodies to provide financial support and assistance to orphaned children and bereaved Sikh family members who have suffered human rights abuses and state oppression in the Indian sub-continent.
5. To encourage the UK Government and relevant UN bodies to provide financial support and assistance to help educate and rehabilitate Sikh youth in the Indian sub-continent affected by the menace of drug and alcohol abuse.
Agenda Item 7: Self-determination for the Sikh Nation
To seek the UK Government's support for the Sikh Nation's right to self-determination as enshrined in International Covenants on Economic, Social, Cultural, Civil and Political Rights and further to influence the UK Government's foreign policy towards the Indian sub-continent so that it adequately reflects the Sikh Nation's desire for self-determination.
1. To lobby the UK Government to argue the case for the Sikh Nation's right to self-determination.
2. To provide information to the UK Government, Members of Parliament and MEPs as to the main reasons why the demands for an independent Sikh State - Khalistan have arisen.
3. To work with Members of Parliament, MEPs and Sikh organisations in other countries to lobby foreign governments on the Sikh Nation's right to self-determination and provide information as to why there are demands for Khalistan.
Agenda Item 8: Lifting the ban on the International Sikh Youth Federation
To successfully continue the campaign to lift the ban on the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) and encourage those previously associated with Babbar Khalsa International (BK) to challenge the ban both legally and politically.
1. To convince the Home Secretary to accept the ISYF's application for deproscription and if successful to brief Parliamentarians for the debates to take place in the House of Commons and then the House of Lords.
2. If the application for deproscription is not accepted by the Home Secretary, to pursue matters via the Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission (POAC), the Court of Appeal and if needed the European Court of Human Rights until the ban on the ISYF is removed.
3. If the Home Secretary does not accept the application for deproscription, a number of Sikh organisations and prominent individuals in the Sikh community to give serious consideration to judicial review challenge against key clauses in the Terrorism Act.
How will it all work?
1. The Sikh Secretariat in consultation with prominent Sikh organisations will be allocating each part of the agreed 8-point Sikh Agenda to specific Sikh organisations and requesting representatives from these organisations to take the agenda forward.
2. Individual Members of Parliament, MEPs and members of the Parliamentary All-Party Panjabis in Britain Group in liaison with the Sikh Secretariat are to be asked which items of the Sikh Agenda they wish to embrace and take forward.
3. The Sikh Secretariat will work closely with Sikh organisations and monitor progress against the aims and objectives set out in the Sikh Agenda. Progress will be reported back to the Sikh community at an annual convention in September each year so the Sikh Agenda can be reassessed and new issues considered.
4. The UK Government, individual Members of Parliament, MEPs and the Parliamentary All-Party Panjabis in Britain Group will be asked to formally report back on progress on the Sikh Agenda at an annual convention in September each year.
5. The Sikh Secretariat is a group of professionals, academics and intellectuals from the Sikh community in the UK and individuals from a number of prominent Sikh organisations who will co-ordinate the delivery of the Sikh Agenda and advise and support Sikh organisations responsible for delivering the Sikh Agenda. The Sikh Secretariat in effect represents the "civil service" of the Sikh Nation and is not intended to be an organisation in itself.
6. To help co-ordinate activities relating to the Sikh Agenda the Sikh Secretariat in consultation with prominent Sikh organisations is also drawing up a series of key contact points. This will ensure each Government Department or agency has one Sikh contact point for all advice and liaison with the Sikh community. The Sikh contact points will liase with relevant Sikh organisations as necessary. The contact points will be appended to copies of the Sikh Agenda provided to Government Departments and agencies.