29th July 2013
Caste Amendment “Timetable”
The AHO (Alliance of Hindu Organisations) warmly welcomes the Government publishing its Consultation Timetable for the implementation of the “Caste amendment” to the Enterprise Bill.
The AHO wholeheartedly supports the Government position in believing that it is important to establish whether caste-prejudiced discrimination already exists in the areas covered by the legislation and if so, the degree and prevalence, especially as the NIESR report itself correctly identifies that the existing legislation (Equalities Act 2010) could be used to provide suitable protections against caste-prejudice based discrimination and harassment.
This consultative process will guard against unintended legislative consequences and suffering that may have ensued as a result of the previous position.
The AHO appreciates that the Government has accepted our submission that a detailed and thorough analysis of this issue is a prerequisite to satisfactory implementation. As a matter of principle, the AHO is against prejudicial discrimination in all its forms and is committed to its eradication.
We also strongly and unreservedly support the Government’s objective of improving the understanding of Caste for the first time.
We especially welcome that the Government consultation will for the first time also decide whether and how ‘caste’ should be defined, with clarity and accuracy; the AHO feels that it is of paramount importance to have a common and working definition of this matter before the introduction of legislation and will be fully engaging with the Consultative process to ensure that the definition is NOT Hindu specific, as rightly stated by Rt Hon Maria Miller in her communication to us.
AHO PRESS RELEASE
13th November 2013
HINDU COMMUNITY RAISES CONCERNS OVER GOVERNMENT RESEARCH ON CASTE DISCRIMINATION
Hindu community leaders have raised concerns that new government sponsored research on caste discrimination risks repeating the mistakes of previous research with unfortunate consequences for the UK Hindu community. The new research has been commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) as part of the government consultation leading up to the introduction of caste legislation for the first time in the UK.
The research appears to be repeating the mistakes of earlier studies:
· It does nothing to address the key issue of the extent of caste discrimination in this country. The existence of pockets of discrimination has been documented in the previous government sponsored research carried out by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) report. But the authors of that research have already admitted that their report was not designed to establish robust evidence on the prevalence and severity of such discrimination.
· It appears to be proceeding on the basis that the problem is focussed on the Hindu population, when the government’s own research found that only one of 23 documented cases of discrimination took place within that community. The debate at a recent EHRC sponsored stakeholder event focussed disproportionately on the Hindu community, continuing the stigmatisation of this society that was especially apparent in the parliamentary debates on the subject of caste.
· Finally, there is concern that a majority of the EHRC appointed research team have previous links to one side of the caste debate and that this may represent a conflict of interests. The research team leader, Dr Meena Dhanda, and several others on the research team have acknowledged links to lobbying groups including Caste Watch UK, the Dalit Solidarity Network and the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance.
Vivek Sharma, from the AHO Secretariat, said:
“First and foremost, the Alliance remains committed to eradicating all forms of discrimination based on caste or any other grounds. We welcome the decision by the government to enter a period of research and consultation about the introduction of the proposed caste legislation and we wish to engage fully with that process.
“We are very concerned that now the research has started it has become clear that there is nothing in place to examine the extent of caste discrimination in this country. We accept that there is evidence of geographical pockets of discrimination, but there is no reliable research as to how widespread the problem is. Caste legislation may impose a significant cost on businesses and public authorities and we are concerned that in the absence of any hard facts this may well be disproportionate to the extent of the problem of discrimination that actually exists.
“We are also concerned about conflicts of interests within the research team and a continued focus on the Hindu community when the evidence we have suggests that the problem lies just as much within other communities. We would like to work together with all affected groups to ensure caste discrimination is eradicated.”
The NIESR report (published in December 2010) acknowledges that the percentage of the population which experiences caste discrimination and the frequency of discrimination is unknown and that only a major programme of research could establish this. Similarly, it could find no evidence on whether there has been any change in the extent of caste discrimination.
The Government Equalities Office has promised, in ‘Caste Legislation introduction - programme and timetable’ ( July 2013), that work will be undertaken to determine information about the extent of caste discrimination in Britain that can be used as a comparative baseline for any future consideration of the effectiveness of caste legislation. However, it is unclear at the moment what plans it has in place to fulfil this promise.
Dear Hindu brothers and sisters as the campaign starts to move forward and our activities become noticed, its important that we continue to establish that there is a genuine grass roots Hindu voice which is willing to defend its rights.
At this moment our EDM which simply asks for the Hindu community to be given a chance to participate in a consultation process is being challenged by counter EDM's and amended EDM's and the possibility of further political manoeuvering against our rights is very likely.
We need to generate more support for Early Day Motion 117, calling for a full consultation period before deeply flawed Caste legislation is introduced. Below is a template letter you can send to your own MP to ask for their support. This must be the MP for the constituency in which you live. You could also call them or approach them informally if you know them.
We are supplying with this letter a database of key MPs with their contact details. Where your MP has a Twitter account you may also wish to Tweet them about this issue so that their response is in the public domain.
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
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.
Vivek Sharma BA Hons (Oxon)
On behalf of
Alliance of Hindu Organisations
UPDATE ON ACTIVITIES BY THE AHO
1st June 2013
One of the many wonderful things that our British Hindu Community is known for is its unmatched work ethic. Whether its in business or the professions, when we put our minds to a task, no one does it better. In April of this year there was no AHO but after Lord Harries and his racist colleagues publically denigrated our Community, discriminating against us in the most despicable manner, the British Hindu Community turned its attention to this task and the AHO was born.... here's the press release we recently issued with a summary of the milestones reached so far.
Alliance of Hindu Organisations (AHO):
In March 2013 the House of Lords voted in favour of a proposal to include ‘caste’ within the definition of race in the Equalities Act 2010. This was a matter of great concern to the 1 million strong UK Hindu community, who felt that this would stigmatise them and embed the caste system, which the community rejected, within the legal system.
The Alliance of Hindu Organisations (AHO) was set up in order to have "One Hindu Voice" when lobbying Parliament on the Caste Legislation.
The AHO Secretariat/Communcation Team led by our Young Hindu Professionals were tasked with actively communicating with Ministers, MPs, Lords and other Stakeholders via face to face meetings, presentations, emails and through letter writing. They also created compelling messages with which to brief the Media, MPs and Lords in the run up to further votes within Parliament on the issue of caste based discrimination. The AHO also worked with Linstock Communications to generate mainstream and social media interest of the Hindu Community's arguments to counter a very active lobby in favour of legislation.
In a very short time frame of just 6 weeks, the AHO Secretariat/Communications Team took the Hindu Community's messaging and turned it into a compelling narrative about why the proposed legislation would be detrimental and what the community’s concerns were about its possible implementation. This messaging was distributed to targeted media, all MPs and members of the House of Lords. A dedicated website: www.mycasteishindu.org together with Twitter/Facebook accounts, YouTube Channel containing videos and Email Distribution Lists were also created and used to engage in dialogue with supporters and opponents.
The Lords’ vote was at first rejected by the Commons and the Lords’ majority in favour of legislation was reduced from over 150 to single figures. However, the proposal did go through after Government flagship legislation was threatened by a stalemate. Nevertheless, the messages created by AHO was used in all Parliamentary debates and was praised by both Ministers and Officials. The AHO public affairs campaign helped secure a number of significant Government concessions on consultation and implementation of the legislation for the Hindu Community. The next stage of AHO's work is to insist that the Government conducts a robust, inclusive and wide ranging consultation period with the Hindu Community to address the community's concerns, and with the blessings of Elders and the comtinuing support of our Hindu Temples and Umbrella organisations we will continue to make sure that the interests of the British Hindu are protected and never again so casually bargained away.
with best wishes,
Alliance of Hindu Organisations (AHO)
The following Documents are available for all to download, distribute and use as required.
More to come...