Campaigners for human rights and justice have condemned an attempt by the Hindu Forum of Britain to falsely portray critics of far-right politician Narendra Modi as enemies of Hinduism. UK-based groups which belong to the ‘Hindutva’ movement, which uses the guise of religion for its extremist brand of politics, tried to prevent and then disrupt a meeting, titled Narendra Modi and the rise of Hindu Fascism, in the UK Houses of Parliament hosted by John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, and supported by Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, on Wednesday 26 February 2014.
On 28 February the Hindu Forum of Britain, with the National Council for Hindu Temples, National Hindu Students Forum and City Hindu Network, issued a joint statement (see below) attacking the meeting’s organisers, Awaaz Network and The Monitoring Group. Speakers at the Parliament meeting are alleged to have ‘spewed vile unsubstantiated hate towards the Hindu community’. However most of those who spoke at the meeting are from Hindu backgrounds themselves.
The Hindu Forum press statement also attacks moves to outlaw caste discrimination in the UK (though this would benefit many Hindus) and claims that ‘the Hindu community in Britain is being unfairly and aggressively vilified’. They make clear their opposition to free speech, stating that ‘We as a nation cannot and should not allow such extremist access to Parliament to peddle their lies and incite hatred.’
Virendra Sharma (MP for Ealing Southall) had originally agreed to host the Parliament meeting, which focused on the role of Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat and prime ministerial candidate for the far-right Bharatiya Janata Party in India’s forthcoming elections. But he withdrew after coming under pressure from supporters of Modi, who tried in vain to force the event to be cancelled. A few then turned up, some of whom attempted to disturb the meeting, but did not succeed in silencing discussion.
Speakers included Yusuf Dawood accompanied by his nephew Imran, one of the survivors of the horrific communal violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Over 1,500 died (including three British nationals), hundreds of women were raped and 200,000 people driven from their homes. ‘Narendra Modi exposed: challenging the myths surrounding the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate’, a carefully-researched report, was launched, and other speakers, including distinguished academics, examined his rise to fame through right-wing paramilitary movement the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and his divisive and damaging track record. Some of those who spoke at the meeting in parliament represent organisations that have been at the forefront of anti-racist, civil, women’s and human rights campaigns in the UK.
In response to the press release by the Hindu Forum of Britain and their cohorts, Professor Chetan Bhatt of the London School of Economics says ’This is a very cynical attempt by the Hindu Forum of Britain to equate the Hindu religion with the partisan, extremist politics of Narendra Modi’.
Suresh Grover, one of the organisers of the Parliament meeting states that ‘It is the leaders of the Hindutva movement who are discrediting Hinduism by trying to link it with their brand of extremism. These cheerleaders for Narendra Modi certainly do not represent the whole of the so called Hindu community, though sadly, like other religious fundamentalists, they wish to silence many critical and moderate voices. Perhaps the world’s most famous apostle of peaceful and tolerant Hinduism in India was Mahatma Gandhi. He was murdered by an RSS member and Hindutva activist in 1948.’ He added: ‘We refuse to be intimidated by such tactics and are now seeking legal advice on the contents of the press release. It is a clear attempt to wrongly discredit us publicly. It is time for all who care about democracy, human rights and justice – in the UK, India, South Asia and everywhere – to stand firm.
Note for Editors: The Hindu Forum statement can accessed by the clicking the link below:
For further information or to obtain the report, please contact Suresh Grover:
E: [email protected] or ring 07816 301706 or 020 74302869
Photo credit: Radha [From Barry Gardiner: Withdraw your invitation to Modi Protest]