Friday 2 June 2017

Is caste an issue in the General Election in Brent and Harrow?

A consultation is currently going on regarding caste discrimination in Britain and possible inclusion in the Equalites Act. Operation Dharmic Vote LINK is operating behind the scenes to back candidates who are opposed to anti-caste discrimination legislation. This is what they say:
Please take a few minutes to understand some very serious consequences of the caste legislation and case law. For the GE17 election, the Dharmic community needs to vote in large numbers and strategically. Political Party alliances and affiliations need to be set aside. Labour, LibDems, Greens and all the nationalist parties have supported caste legislation bare the odd MP in these parties. As you will see ALL the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates who have signed up are Conservative. Please note Operation Dharmic Vote is not being an agent of the Conservative party, as our analysis and rational for supporting the independent Candidate in Leicester demonstrates.
A Government Equalities Office report gives some background to the issue LINK.  Uma Kumaran, formerly Labour candidate for Harrow East in 2015, recently called out Bob Blackman for the divide and rule tactics based on caste politics used in the 2015 campaign.  She felt she could not expose her family to the stress caused by such campaigning by standing again LINK.

Campaign materials are downloadable from the Operation Dharmic Vote site

Locally Conservative candidates Rahoul Bhansali (Brent Central), Ameet Jogia (Brent North) Bob Blackman (Harrow East), Hannah David (Harrow West), Matthew Offord (Hendon) and Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) have backed Operation Dharmic Vote's campaign to withhold legislative protection for the UK's 250,000 Dalits (untouchables).

Brent resident Sujata Aurora said:  
Caste discrimination is endemic within parts of the Hindu and Sikh communities in the UK - there have been instances of doctors refusing to give medical treatment to Dalits and others where Dalit couples have been refused venues for weddings. It is a discrimination which remains largely hidden to wider society and its defence is usually cloaked as a way of preserving traditions. We have laws against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, sexuality and disability and it is frankly appalling that some candidates in this election are seeking to prevent the implementation of laws against caste discrimination. Voters should question their candidates about their stance on this issue and ask why, in 2017, it is legally acceptable to treat Dalits as inferior subhumans.
Green Party candidate for Harrow East, Emma Wallace recalled the 2015 election:
When I stood as Green candidate in Harrow East in 2015 I could not believe that Bob Blackman and his team had employed such a religiously divisive tactic as 'divide and rule' caste politics to ensure that he retained his seat.  It was especially shocking in light of the fact that Bob Blackman had been elected to represent all his constituents since 2010, in what is the most ethnically and religiously diverse constituency in the country.  It is beyond reprehensible that there are a number of candidates standing in this election backing a campaign to prevent legislation that protects caste members from discrimination. There is absolutely no place for caste discrimination in the UK. 
Liberal Democrat candidate for Brent Central, Anton Georgiou said:
My party's constitution is unequivocal, it says, we exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society in which no one shall be enslaved by ignorance or conformity. Caste discrimination does not belong in the UK's modern society. I am disturbed that some candidates in this election are supporting efforts to maintain it and prevent legislation that would ensure Dalits are treated as equals in our community. Brent's representatives should be leading the way to end this discrimination, not seeking to safeguard it.
Jaiya Shah (Chair Harrow Council for Justice) and Dr Pravin Shah (Coordinator Harrow Monitoring Group) have issued a joint statement on Bob Blackman's candidature  LINK
We can’t support Bob Blackman because we strongly believe that an MP should represent all constituents on equal footing without taking sides, stirring up religious emotions for votes and dividing the communities in the process.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that Conservative candidates are supporting this consultation. One of the main reasons cited by Uma Kamaran, Labour Party Candidate who stood in Harrow in 2025 not standing again was because of the relentless and personal caste based attacks by other parties, namely the Conservatives. It shouldn't be the case in England in 2017. I don't know what's worse - those applying this caste based discrimination or the parties evoking and inciting this horrible form if castigation and discrimination.

Anonymous said...

Philip Grant said...

It is NOT acceptable, legally or morally, to treat Dalits, or anyone else, 'as inferior subhumans'.

The "Operation Dharmic Vote" material above claims that 'no credible evidence exists for caste discrimination according to Government consultation', but the 2010 study carried out for the Government Equalities Office shows that claim to be untrue. That study also said:

'Anti-discrimination legislation would provide access to redress for victims. It would also prompt employers, educators and providers of goods and services to develop nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies. This would lead to much greater understanding of the issues and reduce the acceptability of such discrimination and harassment.

The educational approach is relevant where people are unaware of caste. This approach does not assist those where either the authorities themselves are discriminating or
feel helpless to achieve change.

Education without legislation could be effective in the public sector, but is unlikely to be so in the private sector.'

So, in 2010 a report commissioned for the Government found that there WAS a real problem, and recommended both legislation and education to tackle that problem. It appears that the report was swept under the carpet, and no action taken on this genuine human rights issue.

It also appears that local Conservative candidates in the General Election are backing a campaign to ensure that there continues to be no legislation to tackle this problem.

We all have a vote next Thursday. I will use mine, and I encourage all "Wembley Matters" readers to use their vote, and use it wisely.


Martin Francis said...

Thamks for the link. I have now incorporated into the main article.

Scott said...

Treating people differently because of arbitrary criteria, so called assigned at birth (whether that is because of caste or if they are 'Non-EU') is clearly discrimination - I'm not sure how they can get away with it. In the interim - most public sector organisation have catch alls that state people can't be discriminated against on any grounds which should encompass caste. I would love to see these doctors justify what they've been doing.

Philip Grant said...

As I was mainly ignorant of this problem before reading Martin's blog above, I thought I would read up about the Chandhok "test case", which the Operation Dharmic Vote material seemed to be using as an example of members of the Dharmic (Hindu, Sikh, Jain) community suffering as a result of "caste law".

I found an excellent summary of the legal points and judgement(s) at:

The cases which apparently caused the Hindu Chandhok couple to lose their home, because of the £250k legal fees, were actually an Employment Tribunal case brought by their former employee, Ms Tirkey, an Adivasi (low caste) Christian.

The legal fees were so high because Ms Tirkey won her case for unfair dismissal, failure to pay her the National Minimum Wage throughout her employment, unlawful harassment on the grounds of her race and indirect religious discrimination (because she was forced to work seven days a week, so unable to attend church), and the Chandhoks appealed against this to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and lost.

Mr & Mrs Chandhok had brought Ms Tirkey (a poorly educated "servant class" woman, who could not speak English, from a rural village in Bihar state) over to England, giving false information about her role and remuneration in a visa application to the High Commission.

The legal argument over "caste" was whether, although it was not specifically mentioned in Section 9(1) of the Equality Act, it might be considered as falling within the definition of race discrimination because "ethnic origin" was a term with a wide meaning.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal judge did not give a definitive answer over whether caste DID come within "ethnic origin", because there were ample findings of fact by the original Employment Tribunal to justify their decisions of "harassment on the grounds of race" and of "indirect religious discrimination" without his having to give a ruling on that point.

It is Parliament which should make clear, in law, that caste discrimination should be specifically included in the Equality Act 2010.

It is sad to see parts of the Dharmic community (and prospective MPs!) seeking to block this, by appearing to portray as "victims" a couple who, it seems, had brought a fellow human being into this country to serve them under conditions which can be described as "modern slavery".


Anonymous said...

I wonder what part Operation Dharmic Vote played in Bob Blackman narrowly holding on to Harrow East?