Election 2017: Proud British Sikh MPs
There are expressions of joy and gratitude by British Sikhs following the historic election victories: Bibi Preet Kaur Gill is the first Sikh woman and Tanmanjeet Singh the first full identity Sikh to be elected to the House Commons. Sikhs in the UK and the diaspora are celebrating.
These elections by popular vote have opened the way to future successes. Both new Sikh MPs have made a good start by expressing their gratitude to the Guru and pride in their Sikh heritage. They are proud of their first generation immigrant parents.
Much analysis will be done about these success stories and there will be many valid claims to contributions by organizations and individuals to the success. In the final analysis these are victories for the voters. While issues and promises in party manifestos are important, the voters have also assessed the personal qualities of the Sikh candidates and voted for them.
In a light-hearted vein, I am also reminded of another type of “contribution” by some. On one occasion I praised the elegance and beauty of the house built by grown-up children of an old friend. When I praised his children, he shook his head and said, “ But the biggest contribution was mine.” I asked, “How?” Said he, “By keeping quiet!” Regrettably, with our community, “Chupp da daan” by some, is also a big contribution to Sikh unity and success. If not for that negative trait, such successes would have been possible decades ago.
Gurmukh Singh OBE
So, congratulations to Preet Kaur Gill and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi for their success, dedication and activism. In addition to the contribution to national politics while serving all their constituents, we also have great expectations from them as a community facing many challenges. Not the least of these is the challenge of “mistaken identity”. Their presence in the Commons in itself will help to promote and clarify Sikh identity and values which complement British values. However, past experience with other high profile identity Sikhs has shown that, once in office, there is a certain reluctance to take up own community issues. There is no reason for that.
There will be times when they would be expected to consult the community and raise Sikh issues and concerns. That is a just expectation from Sikh and other MPs representing Sikh constituents. These issues and concerns have been well set out in the Sikh Manifesto.
As mentioned in this column before, British Sikhs are maturing from a community of independent organizations – some centred around prominent individuals – to a progressive community centred around inter-dependent organizations not competing against each other but consulting together as necessary. We need more organizations which show team-working of equals bringing different skills around one table. Only such organizations will survive through succession planning. The Sikh Council UK symbolizes that process. The Sikh Manifesto articulates Sikh concerns to brief other organizations which work with the main political parties and the media.
It is our collective responsibility to make these inter-dependent processes work. Finally, well done and “Chardhi kalaa” to Preet Kaur Gill and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi.
Gurmukh Singh OBE