Operation Dharmic Vote GE2017General Press Release
26th May 2017
The British General Election of June 2017 has once again focused minds on the caste discrimination law. The British public must ensure that their elected representatives make a commitment that the law on caste discrimination is removed.
This reversal must extend to both the duty imposed to pass implementing legislation (Equality Act 2010, section 9(5)) and the case law (Tirkey v Chandhok). Both were brought in through the use of spurious claims and without evidence, and have the potential for serious damage to community relations.
A pending Government consultation closes on 17 July 2017. However, it forces respondents to make a choice between retention of the case law and implementation of the section 9(5) duty to make caste an aspect of race. The government prefers the retention of the case law option. That will result in caste being read into legislation wherever the word race appears, including the criminal law. No debate has ever taken place about extending criminal laws by the courts in this illegitimate manner.
The Government consultation already acknowledges that no satisfactory evidence supports any law on caste and correctly says that caste cannot be defined. It must follow through with the logical consequences of those observations and rid the public of the caste law and election candidates must now commit to that.
The Anti Caste Legislation Committee (ACLC), voicing the concerns of a wide cross-section of the community, regards both options as dangerous, with the potential to create conflict within the community, the encouragement of spurious claims, and foster attacks on the religious and associational freedoms of the community.
Minesh Patel, Head of the Harrow firm Law Partnership Solicitors represented the defendants in the Tirkey v Chandhok case. He observed, “I have seen an innocent couple not only lose their house after a claim was made on spurious grounds, but also made potentially liable for upwards of £250,000 in lawyers’ costs. That could happen to any member of the community. That case has now become the precedent on which caste claims are to be brought and which the Government appears to support. That cannot be right.”
In pledging to “Outlaw caste discrimination” in its manifesto, the LibDems have ignored the lack of evidence, the impossibility of implementation, and the havoc that would be caused for British communities. Conservative and Labour candidates have so far shown little solidarity with the community to repeal the legislation and case law. There has been much lip service, fobbing off the electorate with excuses, and blaming the community, which never asked for the law in the first place.
Prakash Shah, Reader in Cultural and Law at Queen Mary, University of London and author of the report, Britain’s Dharmic Communities and the General Election 2015 says, “The level of ignorance among parliamentarians, many of whom actually supported the law, is staggering. The election provides an opportunity for the electorate, which appears to be increasingly likely to vote tactically, to put their candidates to the test. The caste law is probably the most important legal change likely to affect lives especially of Britain’s Indian community. The candidates I have spoken to seem to underplay or underappreciate that.”
But Conservative MP Bob Blackman, who plans to see off competitors to his Harrow East seat, strongly supports repeal. “Having studied the Anti Caste Legislation Committee’s (ACLC) briefing papers on the potential impacts on individuals, businesses, community organisations and public authorities, and their assertion that case law could end up with adverse consequences, if re-elected, I would seek the support of the government and fellow MP’s to repeal both the caste clause in the legislation and Parliament to overturn any adverse judgements in case law.”
Dharma Seva Purvapaksha media group leader, Mr Mukesh Naker, who is running Operation Dharmic Vote during GE2017, says he plans to take election candidates to task on their position on the caste law: “Those not providing adequate responses will have to face the electoral consequences. This is going to be an important issue in many marginal constituencies. Candidates are being brought up to speed on this and are generally reacting favourably once the facts are made clear. Some are still fudging the issue though. Political parties must take notice that they cannot take the Dharmic voter for granted as before. We are now dealing with a savvy generation.”
Notes to Editors
Dharma Sewa Purvapaksha (DSP) set up Operation Dharmic Vote (ODV) in 2014 as a national policy and pressure group with the aim of promoting issues that affect or have an impact on Dharmic communities in the United Kingdom. By Dharmic, we mean all those communities that have their origins in the Indian sub-continent. In today’s terms these would constitute Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist communities.
DSP’s GE2017 campaign follows the one run for GE2015, in the interests of the Dharmic communities.
Operation Dharmic Vote is a long-term project to engage diverse Dharmic communities. Predicting political outcomes is complex. So we approach this endeavour as a long term project, being open to learning as our engagement deepens.
Operation Dharmic Vote sets out to address the lack of policy & political influence faced by the Dharmic community organisations and members. Key reasons for this are
Confusion between policy & politics. Few organisations have capacity to analyse or articulate policy impacts on themselves or their members. They also confuse policy with party politics. As charitable or voluntary organisations, they need to be neutral in party political terms. But on policy matters they must have the capacity to make informed impact assessments and communicate these to their members to act upon.
Lack of voter power – the Dharmic community largely fails to use its democratic rights to vote strategically or in sufficient numbers.
Blind loyalty to a party. Traditionally Dharmic communities have voted for the Labour Party. This is changing. ODV’s political campaigns will help this process further. At each election, each political party and each candidate needs to respect and address Dharmic communities’ issues for our vote.
Contacts for further information
Mobile +44 77 1313 7425 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Prakash Shah
Mobile +44 77 1114 1777 Email: email@example.com