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'Caste system created by British'

An umbrella group of Hindus feels prominent British MPs who want legislation against discrimination are being "misled by Christian groups".
By Dipankar De Sarkar | IANS, London
UPDATED ON FEB 15, 2008 04:09 PM IST

An umbrella group of Hindus says prominent British members of parliament who want legislation in Britain to protect against caste discrimination are being "misled by Christian groups".

The Hindu Council UK (HCUK), which is opposed to religious conversion, said in a new report that caste discrimination does not exist in Britain - and that caste, in any case, was created by the British in India.

"Today, we are putting the record straight. We are also naming and shaming those who spread misinformation about Hinduism and its relationship to caste in an ill-disguised attempt to vilify the Hindu people and cause division within our community," said HCUK general secretary Anil Bhanot.

Bhanot claimed in his foreword to the report that ruling Labour Party MPs Rob Marris and Jeremy Corbyn, "who are lobbying the Department of Communities and Local Government to legislate against caste discrimination, may have been misled by Christian groups who want, quite simply, to 'save' people from the 'falsehood' of Hinduism and convert people to Christianity."

"Caste has been the subject of ill-informed comment for too long," Bhanot said in a statement on Thursday.

The report's author, Raj Pandit Sharma, added that the caste system had been created by the British during their colonial rule in India.

"It was the British who single-handedly formulated the caste schedules that remain in place today," Sharma wrote. "The evils manifest in the current form of the caste system cannot be ascribed to the Hindu faith. The current adulteration of the Hindu 'varnashram' system is a direct result of generations of British colonial bureaucracy."

The group said the report was the result of several months of research by Sharma, a member of the HCUK's executive.

Accusing some anti-caste groups in Britain of "seeking government legislation and government funds to tackle this supposed problem", the HCUK said: "Caste, as described in the Hindu scriptures, is not determined by birth."

"It is no joke to have to ward off concerted misinformation campaigns from UK parliamentarians who really ought to know better," Bhanot said.

While Corbyn is a prominent left-wing campaigner for human rights and race relations, Marris was among several ruling party MPs who attended a Diwali function hosted by Britain's longest-serving Asian MP Keith Vaz in the House of Commons last year.

Caste, the group said, is "assumed by most non-Hindus to be always a gross form of unjust discrimination, an alleged feature of Hinduism so maligned it justifies attempts by Christians to convert Hindus here in the UK, in India, and elsewhere."

It, however, acknowledged and condemned what it called the "abuse of varnashram" in India.

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