Global Sikhs: The Cultural Catalysts Shaping Politics in Foreign Lands

by Dr. Vaishali Sharma

The Sikh and Punjabi diaspora, far from being confined to India, has exerted a significant influence on the global stage. The role of these communities in promoting Sikhism and Punjabi culture, as well as their political impact in their adopted countries, is worth exploring.

Worldwide, the Punjabi diaspora has significantly influenced countries like Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia. They have been pivotal in promoting Sikh teachings and fostering an appreciation for Punjabi culture.

In the UK, the Punjabi diaspora has worked to promote Sikhism and Punjabi culture. Lord Indarjit Singh, the first Sikh member of the House of Lords, who was also recently present at the Coronation of Charles III, has been instrumental in representing the Punjabi community and advocating for religious freedom and human rights.

Beyond cultural promotion, the Punjabi diaspora also contributes significantly to philanthropy. They’ve been active in funding development projects in their home country, as well as supporting global disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

Politically, the diaspora has made significant strides in their countries of residence. Sikhs have not only run for public office in the United States but have also won. In 2017, Ravi Bhalla became the first Sikh mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, and in 2021, Harminder Singh Jassal was appointed as the first turban-wearing Sikh City Council member in Artesia, California.

Canada too has experienced the political sway of the Punjabi diaspora, as exemplified by Jagmeet Singh’s emergence as the first non-white leader of a major political party in the 2019 Canadian Federal elections.

The UK has also seen a surge in Punjabi political engagement. In the 2017 General Election, over 20 MPs of Punjabi descent were elected to the UK Parliament.

The success of the Punjabi diaspora is rooted in a strong sense of community and shared values. The resilience and perseverance they exhibited in the face of hardships and discrimination have served as a rallying point, driving them towards promoting Sikhism and Punjabi culture.

Additionally, the use of technology and social media has proven instrumental in spreading awareness about Sikhism and Punjabi culture globally.

The Punjabi diaspora’s influence abroad is irrefutable, with significant contributions to philanthropy, education, and social services. Their active involvement in politics has allowed them to voice concerns, mobilise support, and elect leaders representing their interests. This success in promoting Sikh culture and diversity has not only been a testament to their resilience but also an invitation for the world to appreciate the diversity and richness of Sikh and Punjabi culture.

Dr. Vaishali Sharma

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