An alarming agenda

Dear Sir

Thank you for including an article in your October issue about British MPs demanding the inclusion of a tick box Sikh as an ethnic group, in the 2021 UK Census. Needless to say, I found the details about this issue a bit alarming.

I cannot really comprehend how Sikhs could become an ethnic group. To my knowledge, Sikhism is a religion founded in India by Guru Nanak ji, a Hindu.

While 83,000 British Sikhs identified their ethnicity as Sikh instead of Indian or British Indian, one relief is that a majority of Sikhs living in the UK – some 80 per cent – identified Sikhism as their religion.

Another relief is that only a small minority of MPs have signed the petition and as the writer points out, these numbers could dwindle further.

I hope that the government of India will take this matter into consideration and treat it seriously as this petition, which is an agenda of the militant group SFUK, could have a truly negative impact on India-UK relations.

C. Kavitha

Poor show for Gauri

I very much appreciated Devendra Mohan’s poignant article on the murder of Bangalore journalist Gauri Lankesh (‘A brave voice is silenced’, Asian Affairs October issue). How sad that this tragedy was compounded by the poor turnout of journalists at her memorial service. It is understandable in the climate of fear mentioned by Mohan, but she deserved better.

Riya Agrawal

New Delhi

A matter of choice

Harvey Morris is right when he says that foreign governments ‘are forced to walk a diplomatic tightrope’ in the quest to maintain relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, two sparring powers who have accused each other of supporting terrorism and seeking confrontational policies in the region. But I wonder if Mr Morris would agree that any government with regard for its people’s welfare should be choosing its side more carefully.

Iran may not be the most enlightened regime in the world, with its stagnant theocracy and abuses of human rights, but it is surely far less of an evil than the Saudi regime, which prohibits non-Muslims from practising their religion publically, seeks forcible conversions and sponsors the Wahhabi ideology that has wreaked havoc in the Middle East and brought terrorist atrocities to the shores of Europe – not to mention its deplorable actions in Yemen. Donald Trump’s bugbear with Iran is foolish even by his standards: the country has been a strong ally against ISIS and is abiding by the nuclear treaty. Maybe it is time to topple off the tightrope and land on the better side.

Valérie Durand-Cooper


Growing change from grassroots

Steve Crawshaw’s ‘The power of peaceful protest’ (October Asian Affairs) was stirring, especially when he mentioned the fate of Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo. Liu’s death could make us think that peaceful protest against powerful regimes is useless, leading only to imprisonment or death for those who speak out. But when it is backed up by grassroots organising – think of the civil rights and suffrage movements, or the Knock Every Door campaign – real change can be effected without bloodshed. Thanks to the internet and social media, huge groups of people can connect and exchange ideas, which are the real lifeblood of non-violent protest and change.

Barney Williams


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