Diaspora documented
Angad B. Sodhi

Sikhs in Britain
by Gurharpal Singh and
Darshan Singh Tatla.
Routledge, Zed Books. £17.99.

Sikhs in BritainYou can be assured to find a Sikh presence anywhere you go in the world. There are an estimated 16 to 18 million Sikhs around the globe, at least one million located abroad, predominantly in three countries, Canada, the USA and the UK. Of the three, the UK has the largest Sikh presence in terms of population.

Sikhs in Britain is an in-depth study of the British Sikh population. Having been thoroughly researched, it is the most comprehensive and up-to-date study of the British Sikh community.

There have been a fair number of studies carried out on the Sikh diaspora in Britain in the past. However, most of these studies have had a very narrow and specific focus or have been stimulated by the Khalistan movement. There have been area-specific studies looking at race relations or the patterns of settlement in a certain city or of Sikhs of a certain caste. Sikhs In Britain has assimilated the research of the past to create a single systematic work of scholarship that should necessarily find itself on the bibliography for any academic research on the Sikh diaspora.

The book is purely an academic work but it makes a fascinating read for anyone interested in the history of Sikh migration, multiculturalism in Britain or in the Sikh diaspora. Based on a similar chapter structure to Tatla’s previous book, The Sikh Diaspora: The Search for Statehood, it starts off looking at the history of the Sikhs right from the time of the Gurus, through the Bluestar era, to the quest for Khalistan. It then goes on to explain the intricacies of the rural Punjabi community where a lot of characteristics of the modern-day British Sikh society find their roots. It also sets the scenarios for the different waves of migration from the Punjab and then looks at the situations and challenges that greeted them upon arrival in Britain.

Unlike the earlier Sikh migrants like the Bhatras, who slipped into Britain in a small numbers as traders, the post-World War immigrants were met with a lot of resistance from the local citizens.

The book looks at the challenges faced by the Sikh settlers in adapting and assimilating into the social and economic set-up in Britain and yet retaining their distinct identities.

The evolution of British Sikhs’ involvement in politics, which was initiated to deal with local community issues and later ended up as a powerful international lobby for the cause of a sovereign Sikh state, is looked into in detail.

The authors then move on to look at the current state of the community in the post-9/11 and 7/7 world. They do this in terms of education, employment, gender issues, and most importantly the question of identity.

The authors offer the choices of different courses that the British Sikh community will have to choose from to move on in the future.

Where is the British Sikh community headed? Back to an orthodox Sikh identity; on to some sort of Anglo-Sikhism; or to revert to the scriptures for a more spiritual awakening? And they sign off with the stark statement that "the choice they make will have profound consequences for Sikhs all over the globe".

This book is a significant study by two of a select group of scholars who can claim to be authorities on the subject of Sikh studies. Singh and Tatla are prominent scholars on the subject of the Sikh diaspora, especially the British branch. Their work will serve as reference for others who are interested in the field.