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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

UK lawmaker says legislation to outlaw caste-based discrimination ‘unnecessary, divisive’

Campaign groups allege that Dalits face discrimination in the UK, while Hindu, Sikh and Jain groups deny it.

world Updated: Jul 30, 2017 17:41 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Conservative MP for Harrow East, Bob Blackman
Conservative MP for Harrow East, Bob Blackman(File photo)

Amid intense lobbying, a ruling Conservative MP considered close to Hindu groups has called British legislation to outlaw caste-based discrimination as “ill thought-out, divisive and unnecessary”, for which a public consultation is on until September 18.

Campaign groups such as the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance allege that Dalits face discrimination in the UK, while Hindu, Sikh and Jain groups deny it. Some Sikh groups are likely to go to court on the ground that Sikhs, not being Hindus, do not believe in the hierarchical caste system.

Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East — which has a large Indian community — told the House of Commons on the eve of recess: “It is vital that the message goes out from this House that British Hindus have an opportunity to input to the Government consultation, so that the Government have the evidence they require to ensure we remove this ill thought-out, divisive and unnecessary legislation.”

Keith Vaz (Labour) responded to Blackman: “I share his concern about that part of the legislation, which is causing concern among the Hindu community, as Harrow and Leicester are very similar in terms of their Hindu population, and I pledge my support for the campaign he has launched.”

Blackman hoped that Vaz would be able to persuade members of his party in both houses of Parliament “to support the government on doing what we want to see happening for British Hindus up and down the country”.

The ruling Conservative party is seen to be closer to the influential Hindu-Sikh-Jain lobbies.

Prime Minister Theresa May told Hindustan Times before the June 8 election: “I recognise the sensitivity on the caste issue; there is a consultation taking place. There was wording put into the relevant legislation in the House of Lords by Labour and Liberal Democrats working together on that, but I realise how sensitive this issue is.”

India has objected in international fora in the past to the notion that caste is an aspect of race.

Caste-based discrimination is not expressly prohibited under Britain’s equality legislation, but Section 9 of the Equality Act 2010, as amended, requires the government to introduce secondary legislation to make caste an aspect of race, thereby making caste discrimination a form of race discrimination.

First Published: Jul 30, 2017 17:41 IST