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Kounteya Sinha | TNN | May 6, 2015:: The oldest umbrella organisation for 565,000 Hindus in Britain is now under scrutiny for asking its followers to vote for the Conservative Party.
Urging people to vote as a form of “dharma”, a senior functionary of the National Council of Hindu Temples – general secretary Satish Sharma said the David Cameron led party rejected an anti-caste legislation and whose members are committed to repealing the caste amendment if re-elected.
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Britain’s Charity Commission told TOI that electoral guidance clearly states that charities are banned from supporting any political party or candidate and that all charities have to ensure that their independence is maintained.
Hindu organisations in UK have been calling on the House of Commons not to introduce a legislation – the Equality Act that includes caste among other forms of discrimination and gives legal protection to four lakh dalits living in the UK.
Sharma wrote on the organisation website “This is not a recommendation for members of the dharmic communities to vote for a particular party, but it would be unfair not to recognise that the Conservative Party is the only principal party which has rejected the process whereby this legislation was forced through, and the Conservative Party is the only party which has consistently listened to us and voted against this legislation”.
According to Sharma, both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have pledged that if elected, they would immediately introduce legislation that would “effectively introduce a caste system here in the UK”.
READ ALSO: Charity Commission assesses Hindu charity’s apparent endorsement of the Conservative Party
Speaking to TOI, Sarah Hitchings from the Charity Commission said “We are aware of the notice posted and we contacted the charity to establish the facts of this matter and ask them to remove the post as a matter of urgency. Guidance on campaigning and political activity makes clear that a charity must not give its support to any political party or candidate”.
She added “We are aware that the post has subsequently been removed and the trustees have responded to us. We are assessing the response to decide what action, if any, is required”.
A controversy had broken out last year when a Conservative Party minister-in-charge of getting the new legislation rolling was accused of trying to actually shelf it.
In a letter to Hindu groups, equalities minister Helen Grant said a safeguard has been introduced which would allow the government to remove caste discrimination from the statute book if reviews show it is not necessary. The letter also asked Hindu groups to submit evidence that will help the government junk the legislation they feel is unnecessary.
In a letter to the Alliance of Hindu Organisations on May 9, Grant had said “I made no secret of my disappointment that it has been necessary for the government to concede to making an order to include caste as an element of race in the Equality Act 2010. We remain concerned that there is insufficient evidence of caste-based discrimination to require specific legislation”.
Prime minister David Cameron has gone all out to appease the Indian Hindu community and recently asked Britain to take inspiration from Hinduism if it wants to become better.
Cameron has earlier said Britain can learn from the epic text Ramayana.
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“When I look at the Ramayana and my understanding of the Hindu religion, there’s so much that you have to say about the importance of family, about the importance of community, about the importance of voluntary service – these are all the values that our country needs more of. So, as you celebrate your values, let’s make them our values, and let’s have more of them in Britain,” he said.
He added “But for me what stands out most is this: the British Hindu values. I think of one of the Hindu goals of life, dharma – duty and right conduct. I see it around the country – in the fundraising you do for charities, like the Nepal Earthquake Appeal, which you’ve already responded to in such a big way in the work you do as doctors, teachers, police, throughout our public services in your communities – always looking out for one another, always putting family first in our government. That’s something we can heed in Government and throughout public life”.
Courtesy: TOI, pics and links used above.
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