The level of interest shown in the APPG from all parties is an excellent sign, with over 23 MPs and Lords signing up to be a qualifying member within 2 days of the notice issued by the Hindu Lawyers Association (HLA) of their aspirations of setting up the APPG. The HLA, who will provide the secretariat to the APPG, will work with Temples, grassroots Hindu organisations, the business community, women and young people to ensure that their views are properly presented to the APPG for further consideration, debate and action.
At the AGM, Bob Blackman MP informed the group that numerous attempts had been made over the years to set up an APPG for British Hindus which had failed and it was commendable that the HLA had now got this far in finally setting up the group. The Members present at the AGM elected the office bearers of the APPG for British Hindus accordingly: Bob Blackman MP as Chairman, Virendra Sharma MP as Vice Chair, Matthew Offord MP as Vice Chair, Lord Dholakia as Vice Chair and Seema Malhotra MP as Secretary.
Bob Blackman MP said “I have been working towards the creation of a strong forum for British Hindus to interact with Parliament since being elected, so I am delighted that this cross-party group has now formed and is receiving a lot of support across the board. I look forward to hosting a lively programme of discussions and events which will provide a platform for the Hindu community to positively engage and find its voice within our political system.”
Lord Navnit Dholakia said “I am delighted to be associated with the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus. The community can now project its work at the highest level in British Parliament. It has a proud record of peaceful co-existence and can highlight the social, political and economic contribution of its members. More importantly it can work with our other diverse communities to promote good citizenship.”
Virendra Sharma MP commented “The establishment of the new APPG for British Hindus is a significant step towards better representation of British Hindus in Parliament. I’m delighted to be involved in this important group which will raise awareness of Hindu beliefs in Parliament and work hard to increase Hindu engagement with Parliament.”
Mathew Offord MP added “I am very pleased that the House of Commons has established the APPG for British Hindus. The creation is long overdue as there are several issues that need to be addressed and I look forward to seeking solutions with Parliamentary colleagues.”
Seema Malhotra MP concluded “This is a very important cross party initiative that will ensure that issues affecting the British Hindu community have a stronger voice in our Parliamentary debate. I am delighted to be a founding member and look forward to working with the British Hindu community on its programme of work, making our politics richer and more informed. This is the very essence of One Nation politics – ensuring all have a stake, and that the contributions of all are valued. The APPG for British Hindus will also have a key role in supporting the multi faith work led so well by many in the Hindu community and which builds community and understanding."
Following the successful AGM and formal registration by the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, the APPG for British Hindus will begin a regular program of events, initiatives and activities aimed at raising awareness of the Hindu community. This includes a public launch of the APPG for British Hindus taking place on Wednesday 18 December 2013 at the House of Commons.
Jayesh Jotangia, a Barrister, from the secretariat team commented “the formation of the APPG for British Hindus has been a long time in coming. With majority of the Hindu community having settled in the UK for over 40 years, it is quite extraordinary why there has not been an APPG a long time ago. The APPG will provide an important link between the Hindu Community and Parliament, allowing the community to be formally represented for the first time. The All Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus is no doubt a very positive step forward in the evolution of the Hindu community in the UK. It will ensure that Politicians acknowledge the exceptional contribution of the Hindu community in the UK to the civic and economic wellbeing of the country and also the community’s positive contribution in all the professions and the achievements of individuals and organisations. The setting up of the APPG is a major achievement for British Hindus and it is clear that the Hindu community is now in a position to influence and work with Government to resolve and handle issues affecting Hindus in the UK, Europe and Worldwide. On behalf of the APPG Secretariat-Hindu Lawyers Association (HLA) we look forward to working with you all”.
There have been many key issues raised by the Hindu community that concern them and the Secretariat will ask the APPG to see if some of them listed below can be looked at and progressed:
• To raise awareness of Hindu Religion & Beliefs to Parliament for the right to freely practice the Hindu religion in the UK and campaign to raise awareness and promote solutions to these issues.
• To support and promote the interests of British Hindus to Parliament;
• To encourage Political Parties in the UK to actively engage with the British Hindu community to ensure proper Hindu representation at all levels of Politics;
• To challenge and take up international issues on behalf of British Hindus and take up Hindu identity and human rights issues at an International level;
• To press for a radical improvement in how the Government engages with the Hindu community through better consultation with ‘grassroots’ Hindu Organisations and Temples ;
• To continue the success of Hindu faith ethos schools and the need for funding to be more easily accessible for Hindu community groups.
Pramod K Joshi, Chairman of the Hindu Lawyers Association (UK) and Barrister at 1 Essex Court Chambers said,”The Hindu Lawyers Association (UK) commends the establishment of this APPG to advance the interests of Hindus in this country in a manner that has not existed before in living memory. HLA is more than willing to offer its legal expertise, input and vocal support as and when required to put the concerns and further the rights and entitlements of Hindus within the framework of legislature, both new and existing. The Hindu Lawyers Association (HLA) is an independent and non-profit making organisation with the sole purpose to enhance and protect the legal tenants’ of the Hindu Dharma. The HLA provides a community of legal professionals who provide direct assistance to Hindu based organisations and communities who require their support. Created through the National Hindu Students’ Forum (UK), the Association brings together like-minded individuals to share in the beliefs of Hinduism and the practice of facilitating the betterment of Hindu theology, culture and religion, through interaction with politicians, society and the law. HLA, through working with the Hindu community seeks to maintain and protect these said values through its three standing values – these being Charitable, Educational and Social function.”
The APPG for British Hindus has already received overwhelming support from the Hindu Community:
“There is an evidential lack of political engagement at all levels and on all fronts from the British Hindu Community. As an Advisory Board Member of City Hindus Network, I see Hindus excelling in every other sphere of professional life. To make a difference to society this needs to be channelled across political parties as well. I very much welcome the formation of the APPG for British Hindus”.
Nishma Gosrani, CHN Advisory Board Member, Director Deloitte UK
“The National Hindu Students’ Forum (UK) would like to congratulate the young Hindu professionals involved in the formation of the APPG for British Hindus. As the 2015 election draws closer, the APPG will play an instrumental role in assisting in the NHSF (UK) campaign to get our 5000 members voting. We wish the APPG team the very best of luck and they have our full support”.
Pranav Bhanot, President of National Hindu Students’ Forum (UK)
"On behalf of the Hindu Council UK (HCUK), together with our Affiliates and Members, we wish the HLA heartiest congratulations and best wishes for setting up the APPG for British Hindus. HCUK is one of the oldest, established Hindu Umbrella Organisations representing Hindu organisations together with individuals combining all the Hindu faith denominations domiciled in the UK. Over the last 35 years, a complex array of National & Umbrella Hindu Groups have been set up to offer expertise, provide services to Government or campaign on one or more political issues. However, to date, the Hindu community in the UK has not managed to fully excel in the Political engagement and interaction process. We are convinced that the young secretariat of the APPG will ensure that the Hindu voice is heard loud and clear in the corridors of Westminster, as well as within the Chamber itself. Special thanks to our Director/Secretary General – Sanjay Jagatia who has helped the young secretariat team to gain support from Parliamentarians to sign up and become members, registering the APPG, helping to prepare the aims and objectives of the group and to ensure that the whole process of setting up the APPG was as effortless as possible. Sanjay is a strong advocate of the vision of our young Hindus to progress and rightly become the future custodians of our community’s interests. We will continue to offer all our help, support and motivation to the young team. WELL DONE for achieving what others have previously only had aspirations, talked and discussed of setting up".
Umesh Chander Sharma, Chairman of the Hindu Council UK (HCUK)
Sanjay Jagatia commented, “There are various issues faced by British Hindus including the many problems related to understanding the complexities of Hinduism, linked to conflicts about culture, religion and linguistic heritage. In addition, there is inadequate political representation and inaccurate representation made about Hindus in the media.
It is hoped that the formation of the APPG for British Hindus will:
• Urge the Prime Minister, MPs, Lords, Ministers and the Government to work with the Hindu community in the UK and to take on board points made by the British Hindu community, so that Hindus feel that their voice is being heard.
• Build strong working relationship between this Parliament and all Hindus living in the United Kingdom
• Highlight and acknowledge the exceptional and significant contribution of the British Hindu community in all walks of life – civic, economic, business, industry, commerce, in the professions, education, and what Hindus offer to the multicultural wellbeing of the United Kingdom in creating many jobs and wealth for our Nation. The Hindu community is a model of cohesion and integration and everyone can learn many lessons on the way in which it has conducted itself in the UK. British Hindus have a strong sense of their identity, both as Hindus and as British citizens. Hinduism embraces
all religions. Hindus are proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. Hindus believe not only in universal toleration, but accepting all religions as true.”
“I welcome the breaking news of the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Hindus. A pioneering step in the right direction for the young professional Hindus in the UK to have a voice and platform in Parliament across all parties. This will be a stimulus for cross party debate on Hindu issues and representing the views of one million Hindus in the UK”.
Nilesh Solanki, Chair of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Hindu Network
“We at Satkarma Humanitarian Youth Awakening Mission (SHYAM) congratulate APPG for British Hindus on their launch and offer our prayers and blessings for their success. This will be a wonderful platform to promote, preserve and protect Sanatan Dharma and to work together for the welfare of all UK citizens. It was Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu educated in the UK, who said that ‘those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is’. There are principles, ideals and values that transcend political ideologies, barriers and divides, and it is truly admirable that politicians from all parties are working together for the common cause of preserving them".
Dhruv Chhatralia, President of SHYAM, Broadcaster and Author of 19 books on Hinduism
"The lack of political engagement from the Hindu community in the UK has often been cited as an issue, but it is only rarely that solutions to this issue are put forward. The newly-launched APPG for British Hindus is without doubt a step in the right direction. On behalf of CHN, I would like to extend my congratulations to the young professional team involved in the formation of the APPG for British Hindus on their efforts in tackling what is without doubt one of the key issues affecting our community, and personally consider this event an inspiration for CHN to continue to tackle this issue also"
Prinal Nathwani, Chairman of City Hindus Network
“We once stood on the shoulders of giants and we now stand united with our ancestor’s baton at hand, with fear and ego aside, ready to write our own history. The future of the Hindu community rests on young shoulders and we must courageously represent the views of our wider community to those capable of making decisions that affect our future. A door has been opened for us to walk through, as revolutionaries, let us walk through with pride, commitment, knowledge and informed responsibility, with the determination to show Britain the true value of dharma in our society. As a social think-tank, I look forward to sharing the challenges and successes with a new generation of thinkers going ahead. Best wishes and congratulations to the Hindu Lawyers Association, who will be the Secretariat of the APPG for British Hindus. We are proud of what you have achieved in setting this up”
Kishan Bhatt, Annual Hindu Convention (Hindu Think-Tank)
"It is paramount for British Hindus and Indians to take a more dedicated stand in their contribution towards UK government policy. Formation of an APPG for British Hindus is an excellent and positive step forward for both the Hindu community and British Parliament, in building understanding, engagement and collaboration. Indian values are very much aligned with traditional British values and ensuring that we influence decision-making, which impacts our future generations, is of critical importance. I hope that this new initiative and partnership approach will ensure that the British Hindu and Indian community stay educated, inspired and active in political matters which affect and build our tomorrow."
Mrs Neelam Aggarwal-Singh, Chairperson Indian Hindu Welfare Organisation (IHWO)
“It is a great effort on the part of the team in setting the APPG for British Hindus. I very much wish you all the success in the launch and look forward to hearing about the work of the Group”.
Hema Ghantiwala, BT Ethnic Minority Network
“This high level of unprecedented group representation created specifically for the Hindu community is a much needed voice to highlight the positive Hindu contribution to the UK and will propagate a sense of confidence and hope for addressing issues often highlighted, but not resolved.”
Varsha Kumari Mistry, Chair Person Metropolitan Police Hindu Association (MPHA)
“It is essential that essence is not lost, that roots are not abandoned, and it’s so encouraging to see young people having not only an inclination to preservation of such values, but taking concrete steps using their abilities and influences positively, like the APPG for British Hindus, to ensure that we may try to preserve culture, and in doing so be of service to the countries we live in and the people we live with. I wish the group every success”.
Prashant Joshi, Chair, Ernest & Young Interfaith Hindu & APAC City Indian Network
Sanjay Jagatia concluded, “Following various discussions over a considerable length of time by the Hindu Community, it was felt that there was a need for an APPG for British Hindus to be set up in order to promote and raise awareness and voice of the British Hindu community and lobby for support from the Government, Health Service providers and other Statutory Bodies and Authorities. The outside Secretariat for the APPG for British Hindu will be administered by the Hindu Lawyers Association (HLA), led by Jayesh Jotangia. The HLA will seek support from Hindu community activists, business leaders, health professionals, academics, PR/Marketing/IT Consultants and those working in the grassroots level with the Hindu community, all of whom can bring a diverse set of skills. In addition, the Secretariat will encourage the Hindu Community across the UK to positively engage with them, in order for the Secretariat to raise issues on their behalf to the APPG.”
Qualifying/Founder Members of the APPG for British Hindus as at 7th November 2013 are:
Nick de Bois
Sir Edward Garnier
LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY:
Steve Reed OBE
Lord Diljit Rana
Lord Karan Bilimoria CBE