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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Sikhs in call for greater role
Sikhs at the convention
More than 10,000 Sikhs attended the convention
Thousands of Sikhs gathering for their national convention in the West Midlands have renewed calls for recognition as a distinct ethnic group.

Ten thousand people gathered for the event at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Wolverhampton at the weekend.

People attending said they had suffered racial abuse and violence since the terrorist attacks on America last year.

They argued for changes to give them more protection and allow them to play a greater role in UK society.


It is up to the wider community to reach out to the Sikhs and say we welcome your participation

Rob Marris MP

Dabinderjity Singh of the Sikh Secretriat said: "I still get called Osama Bin Laden, people laughing at me.

"It can be small children. It can be pensioners. It can even be black people."

The Sikh's started their campaign for recognition as an ethnic group 12 months ago.

There are 600,000 to 700,000 Sikhs in the UK.

Local MPs attended the conference to reassure the Sikhs they should have a voice.

Public authorities

Wolverhampton South West Labour MP Rob Marris said: "There are not enough school governors for example.

"It is up to the wider community to reach out to the Sikhs and say we welcome your participation."

Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP for Meriden said: "The census which went out only last year did not seperately identify them as a group in a mandatory way

"It wal left optional for public authorities to collect data on Sikhs as an ethnic group."

British Indians

In April 250 Sikhs lobbied MPs at the House of Commons to demand a change in how their ethnic identity is officially recognised.

Currently Sikhs are classified for monitoring purposes as British Indians.

The community leaders argued they should be known as a separate group in official documentation.

Legal action

They claimed the right to a distinctive identity existed under the Race Relations Amendment Act.

They said they would take legal action against the Home Office and the Commission for Racial Equality, if their pleas were ignored.

They also asked for funds for Sikh organisations, help in promoting the Sikh identity and language, funding for Sikh schools, help in preserving Sikh heritage and help in protecting Sikhs' human rights.


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See also:

18 May 02 | Americas
09 Jan 02 | England
06 Sep 01 | Politics
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