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The Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) celebrated the victory of its campaign to get a Sikh ethnic tick-box added to the 2021 UK census. The Scottish government agreed to include a Sikh prompt in the "other" section of the ethnicity response options. In addition, they promised to view the Sikh community as an ethnic group as well as a religion in the future.

The SFUK claimed the support of more than 150 gurdwaras and Sikh organizations. It has withdrawn its legal complaint in Scotland but continues to pursue a second judicial review against the Cabinet Office over the absence of a Sikh ethnic checkbox in the projected census for England and Wales.

On 7th May 2020, the Census (Scotland) Regulation 2020 was laid in the Scottish Parliament included an option for Sikhs and Jews to opt for ‘other’ when asked ‘What is your ethnic group?’. 

Speaking on the same, Dabinderjit Singh OBE, principal advisor to the SFUK, 

“At the top, there is a choice of White, Mixed, Asian, African, Caribbean, and Other. Sikhs are not within Asian, it is coming under Other.”

The Federation's tick-box campaign received more support in a letter from Scotland's economy secretary Fiona Hyslop dated June 24. According to the letter, which has been viewed by TOI, she will engage with the Sikh Federation (UK) to ensure that public entities in Scotland monitor Sikhs as both an ethnic and religious minority. In the past, government agencies have exclusively collected ethnic data using Census classifications.

One of the reasons behind the demand for the Sikh ethnic tick-box was to force Scotland to monitor Sikhs. Singh further said, 

“We feel we have won the war in Scotland and do not feel there is any point in continuing legal action in the court of session.”

The Federation has also withdrawn its appeal against December 12, 2019, judgement handed down in the first judicial review the SFUK brought against the Cabinet Office over the England and Wales census after the government objected to two lawsuits running concurrently over the same subject.

After Mrs. Justice Lang concluded that the first legal action was premature, SFUK applied for a second judicial review in the High Court on June 11, attempting to quash the Census (England and Wales) Order 2020 on the grounds that it was unlawful. The Federation spent just over £1,000,000 in 'capped' legal fees for both sides in bringing the first action. If the second judicial review is granted, legal fees may not be capped, and if the Federation wins, the UK-wide census, scheduled for March 21, 2021, may be postponed.

On June 16, the high court determined that the second judicial review would be accelerated and heard by a high court judge on or before July 3 to determine if it may be granted. Lord Singh, the director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, said, 

“The Sikh Federation UK has already racked up £100,000 in legal costs and continues legal action in the high court in London. They need to be held to account for this, and ordinary members of Britain’s Sikh community, who the evidence suggests are satisfied on being recorded under religion in the census, must inform politicians here and in Scotland that this action is not in our name.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said, 

“Anyone who chooses to identify as being of Sikh ethnicity in this census will be able to by using the write-in option and the search-as-you type function online.”


*Based on an article by Naomi Canton, published in TOI on 29th June 2020

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