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Indian couple in UK approach court over casteism

world Updated: Aug 18, 2011 00:48 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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In the first case of its kind to appear before the British legal system, an Indian-origin couple, who married across the caste divide, are suing a private firm for wrongful dismissal on grounds of caste discrimination.

The case, which is reportedly being followed by UK home minister Theresa May, involves Vijay Begraj, a 32-year-old Dalit, and his wife Amardeep, a Sikh Jat, 33. An employment tribunal in Birmingham is hearing their case against a law firm, Heer Manak, based in the city of Coventry, which has a large Asian population. The couple - he was a practice manager and she a solicitor - met while working at the firm. They say their bosses, who come from a higher caste, were upset at their inter-caste office romance and discouraged them from getting married.

One of her seniors told warned her of potential difficulties. "He said I should reconsider the step I was taking of marrying Vijay because he was a different caste. People of Vijay's caste were different creatures. Marriage would be very different from dating," Amardeep told the tribunal. She said that on her wedding day, a colleague "raised a toast to Jat girls going down the drain".

Vijay was dismissed last year after seven years of service. Amardeep, who claims she was burdened with more work and paid less than other solicitors, resigned in January. When the couple's story first appeared in The Times last July, their car windscreen was smashed even though the paper had not named them.