Dr Jasdev Singh Rai. General Secretary – BSCF
12th Vaisakhi House of Commons Speakers Room, 17 April 2018,
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Mr Speaker, Secretary of State, Lords, MPs, esteemed guests, the British Sikh Consultative Forum along with other Sikh organisations is delighted to celebrate the 12thVaisakhi event at Westminster with our Parliamentary representatives whose understanding and support for Sikhs is invaluable. We now even have 2 Sikh MPs to deepen that understanding.
With Brexit we are now entering a critical period in our contemporary history. Much understanding of the Sikhs has been achieved in Europe with the help of the British Government. We hope that assistance will continue after Britain exits the EU. We will request all political parties to appreciate this and keep it in mind in the negotiations.
One of the ways forward is for the United Kingdom to give some weight to Para 67 of the 2001 United Nation’s World Conference Against Racism held in Durban. It was drafted specifically with the Sikh community in mind, requiring States to take measures at eradicating barriers against the complex interplay of ethnic, religious and other factors.
By reminding Europe of this UN paragraph, Britain will immensely assist in ensuring that Sikhs enjoy the same rights as intended in UK.
On matters of Foreign Policy, we again urge the Government to be conscious of the sensitivities of UK minority communities before embarking on engagements and policies. For instance it is still not clear why some Sikh organisations were proscribed in 2001 and why UK chose to advise India in 1984. Both issues have personally affected British Sikhs.
This is the 100thyear since women got the vote in UK. The issues of gender and equality in context of Sikhi and Sikhs are not straightforward. It depends whether they are approached through an orientalist lens or from the concepts of Sikhi.
The Sikh philosophy emphasises dignity and respect which is different than the politics of equality and number crunching that seeks to address long historically entrenched inequalities within some civilisations arising out of theological and related ideas.
Sikh women have been in powerful roles in pre colonial and indeed modern Sikh history including having formal say and votes in most major Sikh institutions. There isn’t the ideological obstacle but there are weaknesses in implementation. The BSCF will work with some key organisations and academics to address this. We also hope that Government appreciates communities can have different historical experiences and therefore the way forward is not always a single template, although the national goals are the same.
I thank the Speaker for giving us this wonderful place again to celebrate Vaiskahi at Westminster and I thank all the guests, MPs, Lords and Party leaders for joining us. Happy Vaisakhi.