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AHO Briefing for APPG - 20th March 2014

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AHO BRIEFING FOR THE

APPG for British Hindus

20th March 2014

 

Alliance of Hindu Organisations Ltd
Suite 34, 67-68 Hatton Garden,
London, EC1N 8JY

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Rt Hon Bob Blackman Esq

Chair APPG for British Hindus

Date: 19th March 2014

Dear Mr Blackman,

Response to EHRC Report on Caste Prejudice in the UK

Having studied in detail the report issued by Meena Dhanda’s team for the EHRC, we respond as follows and use this open letter to elaborate on our concerns.

It is our conclusion that the report has added nothing substantive or indeed positive to the debate at all. It has merely given a group of prejudiced (in the strict sense of the word) biased, academics and interest groups a further platform to broadcast their prejudices, funded from the public purse and again, at the expense of the reputation and harmony of the British Hindu community. On the basis of our analysis we request that the word ‘caste’ be removed from legislation as soon as possible.

Their report re-asserts that here, in the UK, there is a terriblephenomenon called “caste discrimination” which despite being so prevalent, defies identification or definition and needs to be addressed with such urgency that conventional Parliamentary scrutiny, checks and balances must be overlooked.

Despite the attempts of the authors to create the impression that caste prejudice is a very real social problem of the highest magnitude, the report makes begrudging concessions which repeatedly challenge the biased opinions of the so called experts themselves. The report states:

“A common view is that whatever the case in India, in the UK caste is associated with a diversity of characteristics (based on socio-economic position, kinship, occupation) and that it is difficult to separate out caste as a basis of difference. Moreover, caste is an issue of decreasing relevance in India and in the UK”

The above is a common view amongst the Hindu community itself, but despite this the experts ask that we discard the significant body of evidence and experience readily available within the community and accept their unevidenced unsupported opinions. What the academic experts ask is neither appropriate, acceptable nor indeed possible. Even Labour MP’s who supported the initial amendment, such as Jon Ashworth (Labour whip – Leicester), are now on record stating that they have never encountered complaints of such prejudice, despite having served the Hindu community for many years.

            The report continues to assert the existence of a caste based hierarchy with ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ groups without ever proposing the metric used to determine ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ nor accepting that the Hindu Faith speaks repeatedly against the notion of such superiority. Oddly the academic researchers have also not addressed the simple fact that neither the word nor the idea of caste exists in the Hindu scriptures. It is a non-hindu word and concept which has been thrust upon the hindu community by non-hindus in the past, an attempt at denigration which apparently persists into the present.

The report further asserts:- It was largely agreed that the new legislation is not expected to produce large amounts of litigation, but it is expected to have an important educative effect.

The researchers clearly accept that the number of actual cases of litigation will be negligible. However if the problem is so prevalent then why would this be the case? Lord Harries claimed that there were 400 community Leaders protesting at the gates of Parliament, wanting to see their communities protected from rampant caste prejudice in the public and service provision sphere. Now we are expected to accept that such a high level of community fear translates into such a low level of litigation. It would appear that poor quality of research and reasoning, a feature of Lord Harries’ statement to the Lords, is also a feature of the analysis produced by this group of academic experts.

It is apparent to any reasonable, impartial observer that the issue of prejudice on the basis of any notion of birth-based superiority contaminates people of all countries, cultures and religions. The multi cultural citizens of the United Kingdom were promised by Ministers, on the floor of both houses and subsequently, a consultation which was open, transparent and impartial and above all, it was repeatedly emphasised that this was NOT a Hindu issue. The process which had been constructed and which was pursued by the EHRC is overtly prejudiced against the British Hindu community, as amply demonstrated by their report and the above, and unless rectified with haste, will leave an innocent, wrongly tarnished British Hindu community with no option but to move towards a Judicial review and beyond.

The word Caste must not remain in Legislation, its continued use is an act of anti Hindu racial and religious violence and prejudice of the highest order. Never before has a word been introduced into legislation in this manner, carried forward on a wave of falsehood and emotionally charged haste, without definition and without evidence supporting the legislation. To leave such a negatively charged and inherently racist word in legislation is an affront to British Hindus and Hindus world wide.

The British Hindu community has noted that Opposition MP’s, Civil servants and even the protector of Equality and Human Rights, the EHRC, have all undermined the rights of the British Hindu Community. The British Hindu community has further noted that the rhetoric of Opposition MP’s whilst in constituency, and whilst being entertained in Temples and Gurudwaras, has been at odds with their Parliamentary rhetoric and voting pattern.

The AHO was in complete agreement with the Government that existing legislation was sufficient to address any prejudicial act and that this amendment was unnecessary and it would seem that recent case law supports this position (Tirkey v Mr and Mrs Chandok). The EHRC report conclusion begrudgingly affirms this also. The AHO was clear and in complete agreement with the Government that there was grossly insufficient evidence of this phenomenon as a social ill, permeating the fabric of British Hindu life. The authors of both the NIESR report and now the EHRC report confirm this. The AHO also accepts that the Government has been motivated to proceed with the greatest reluctance due to past political imperatives.

The AHO now humbly requests that her Majesty’s Government take into account the very significant, traditionally modest and largely unsung and unappreciated contribution of the British Hindu Community to British life in all of its facets, and having regard to the amount of public money already expended upon this intrinsically racist exercise, we ask that the Government move to remove the word “Caste” from legislation altogether. Were this word to be removed the whole matter would stop here and the process of reconciliation, education and healing could begin in earnest.

I understand that the Government is in the process of considering the EHRC report and we hope that the above perspective will feature prominently at this time. Our detailed analysis demonstrating the disappointing quality of the report, its lack of internal integrity and its misrepresentation of the Stakeholder event and of the data presented to Dr Dhanda’s panel will be available shortly. The AHO would be delighted to offer further clarification or to contribute to this stage of deliberation if required.

Finally we would like to take this opportunity to thank Government Ministers and Government Parliamentarians for having proceeded with due caution and for having resisted the hasty pressures of an extremely vocal but decidedly unrepresentative fringe and hope that a way can be found to bring this act of divisive, targeted religious intolerance to a close.

Yours sincerely,

Vivek Sharma BA Hons (Oxon)

On behalf of

Alliance of Hindu Organisations

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www.mycasteishindu.org

 

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