On January the 31st the Sikh Federation UK launched the Sikh Manifesto for the 2015 election campaign. The ten point proposition included requests and demands that the organisation feels are of central importance to the Sikh community in the UK. Along with this they are targeting fifty keys seats that they feel could be swayed by the Sikh vote, mainly in London and the West Midlands.
The Sikh federation are a non governmental organisation as well as the first Sikh political party in the country. Their main goal is to increase political participation in the community and give it a stronger voice in legislature. A copy of the manifesto has been sent to all major parties and an event was held at the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Southall. A second event is due to take place on the 13th of February at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick in the West Midlands.
Many of the points in the manifesto seem simple to achieve. The request for continued investment into faith schools is in line with the current governments plans. The Labour Party is unlikely to reverse this policy if they are elected. Faith schools from a wide range of religious communities are increasing in the UK and the are already plans in place to add to the three current Sikh Schools in England.
Point eight asks for space to be allocated in Central London to a memorial for the Sikh soldiers who fought in the First World War. There is strong evidence that this could be achieved by donations from the community itself. A similar campaign was launched on Kickstarter in 2014 and successfully raised over £22,000 for a monument to be built in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Another request is for the government to take stronger action against perpetrators of grooming and forced conversion. Grooming is already a criminal offence in the UK and recent high profile cases in the media mean that there has already been a move in this direction. So far it seems to have been a point of concern for the wider community as a whole. The subject of forced conversion is a little more complicated. It has not been defined in law what the term actually means and any legislation would take years of legal framing and consultation before it could be enshrined into law.
The fourth point is a requested to change the 2021 census to drop the term Asian. Currently the word is used to describe the ethnic group that Sikhs belong to along with Hindus and Muslim citizens. The writers of the manifesto feel that introducing the word 'Sikh' would be a better choice and would help the media and wider community drop the more general word 'Asian'. However the last census already includes Sikhs in the section for religions. At last count the UK population was 423,000, around 0.8% of the overall population.
The most contentious points are in regard to the Sikh community and its relationship with the Indian government. The references to the events of 1984 as genocide are likely to be an issue for the Indian authorities and it is unclear whether the UK government would risk causing diplomatic and trade relations to be adversely affected. There is a request for the events to be officially recognised as genocide along with two official inquiries. One by the UN into the actions of the Indian authorities, as well as a UK enquiry into the possible involvement of the British government at the time.
The last request may be the most difficult to achieve. The Sikh federation claim that the UK has moral and historic responsibility to the Sikhs. It goes on to state that “the upshot may well be a need for Sikh independence and re-establishing a Sikh Homeland.” the possible diplomatic fallout that would occur between Britain and India means that this request is unlikely to be met. It is possible that none of the main UK parties would be unwilling to even bring this up, due to the potential adverse effect on relations.