Sikhs to be counted as separate ethno-religious group in 2020 census

By The SATimes News Service

Washington, DC: For the first time in US history, the Census Bureau will count Sikhs as a “distinct” ethnic group. This is a significant step towards establishing a separate identity away from the composite “Asian Indian” category for people from India who are broadly known as Indian-Americans.

Because of the legal prohibition against asking questions about religion, Census Bureau officials said they consider Sikhism a “cultural” or an “ethno-religious” identity.

Sikhism does not appear as a category to tick off on the census forms that US residents are legally required to fill out, but Sikhs can tick off the “Other Asian” category and write in their religion as a sub-category instead of listing themselves under Asian Indian or other listed racial and ethnic identities, according to the Census Bureau.

But while anyone can write-in any religious or ethnic or linguistic identities beyond the categories that appear on the form, only Sikhs and some others are given a code that will allow them to be tabulated separately when the 2020 reports are made.

“‘Sikh’ will be included as a distinct detailed population group within the ‘Asian’ racial category, and not classified as ‘Asian Indian’ as it was in the 2010 Census when it was viewed as a religious response,” according to the Census Bureau.

Asian Indian appears as one of the ethnic or racial categories that can be ticked off on the form along with Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.

Pakistanis do not have a category to tick off on the form, but the form suggests that they can write in their ethnicity under “Other Asian.”

The provision for Sikhs to write in their identity was publicized in January.

New York City has launched a video in Punjabi language to reach “Sikhs, who are predominantly Punjabi language speakers.”

Vishavjit Singh, a Sikh community advocate and artist who wore a “Sikh Captain America uniform” is featured in the video which the city broadcast as public service announcements on local Punjabi TV channels, the city said.

Appealing to illegal immigrants, City Census Director Julie Menin said: “We thank Vishvajit Singh for making sure his community knows that there is no immigration or citizenship question on the census and that all responses are completely confidential and cannot be used by anyone, including law enforcement, your landlord, or ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement agency).”

City Census Deputy Director Amit Singh Bagga recalled that his father had suffered “painful discrimination” after 9/11 and said: “There can be no more important exercise for all of us Sikhs to participate in than that which truly allows us to be seen, heard, and respected – and that is the census.”  (Source:

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