THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 26 NOVEMBER, 2019
‘Good Hindus’ Told to Shun Labour in the UK
Labour promises Jallianwala Bagh apology
Hindu temples in the United Kingdom along with the social media is being used extensively by pro-Bharatiya Janata Party organisations and supporters to mount a systemic campaign against the British Labour Party with direct messages to Indian voters to ensure its defeat in the forthcoming general elections. In what is seen by diplomats as unprecedented, Indian origin voters are flooded with messages to vote Conservative, and boycott Labour as it had turned “anti Hindu.”
The anti-Labour sentiment made itself felt in India first when a Twitter campaign was launched against its leader Jeremy Corbyn for the stated position on Kashmir. Relations worsened when the Labour Party adopted an emergency motion on Kashmir condemningt eh Indian government’s revocation of Articles 370 and 35A, holding it responsible for human rights violations. The Labour members voted in support triggering off a counter from the Ministry of External Affairs here. Corbynn sought to make amends with Labour clarifying that it was an issue between India and Pakistan, but this made little difference to the widening chasm between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in India and the main Opposition Labour Party in the UK.
Significantly, the Labour party has not backed off from Kashmir in its recently released election manifesto listing it with Iran, Yemen and Myanmar as a humantiarian crisis and bedrock of its its plans on conflict prevention and peace. It has, however, devoted more space to its pledge to institute an audit into UK’s colonial past, that includes an apology to India for the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy 100 years ago. Former British Prime Minister Theresa May had touched on this earlier 2019 by expressing deep regret, that was seen to have stopped short of a formal apology. The Labour manifesto speaks of an apology, and also of a judge led inquiry into “injustices of the past, and a public review of England’s role in Operation Blue Star.
While this is expected to serve as a palliative for sizeable sections of Labour voters in the December polls, the campaign by Hindu organisations against the opposition party has intensified. Media reports suggest that the Hindu Forum of Britain, the National Council of Hindu Temples (UK) and Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) are supporting campaigns to vote Conservative with temples also reading out messages and playing a role in determining the defeat of Labour candidates in the polls.
The organisations are in the field after the attack on India House, with the Labour party being described on the social media as ‘pro Pakistan’ and appeals being made to the ‘good Hindus’ to vote against it.
More recently the OFBJP has stepped up the campaign OFBJP with its UK President Kuldeep Singh Shekhawa pointing out that Indian voters could influence at least 40 seats. He admitted to reporters that the intention is to oust six Indian-origin Labour MPs. claimed that British Indian's votes could swing up to 40 seats and affect the election to be held on December 12, Times of India reported. The British Indian vote has the ability to decide the outcome of nearly 40 seats in the upcoming elections. Shekhawa said that the party is trying to oust six Indian-origin Labour MPs. Shekhawa said that the organisation was supporting the Conservatives because, “Firstly, some Labour MPs joined the violent protests outside India House on August 15 and September 3. Secondly, no Labour MPs spoke in favour of India in the House of Commons on Kashmir and thirdly because of the Labour motion on Kashmir passed at their party conference.”
He reiterated what has formed the crux of the Twitter campaign against the Labour party, “Kashmir is an internal matter of India. Why is the Labour party discussing the Indian state? We will only support MPs who support us".
In an article in Open Democracy Sunny Hundal has expressed deep concern about the resultant polarisation of Hindus in the UK as a result of this campaign. In his vew it will not impact on the election results but “the impact on British Hindus has been devastating. I have dozens of messages from community members saying this campaign has caused arguments among families and friends. One told me: “I got a WhatsApp message [criticising Corbyn] from a relative with the same message being read out at that mandir [temple]. Made it very clear that I will never support the BJP, totally disagree with their actions in Kashmir and would never vote for the Tories. I don’t wonder who has started this propaganda.”
Another wrote: “I'm a London born Hindu Gujju [Gujarati], who believes in the [Bhagavad] Gita and therefore most definitely does not support Modi or the BJP. Just needed to say that so you know that not all people identifying themselves as hindu gujjus are self serving socially irresponsible hypocrites. Take care and thank you for speaking up.”
British Hindus told me that arguments over this campaign have led to bad blood and deep frustration. Many have left family groups over it. Others have been dismayed by what relatives are sharing. “All that was left was for you to tell me how I should follow my faith,” one wrote on a WhatsApp group I’m part of.
The implication that ‘true Hindus’ should support only the BJP is alarming – it implies a religious duty to support the party and anything it does. A majority of Indians in fact voted against BJP candidates in this year’s Indian elections; the party retained power through local alliances.”
This comes after a Democrats in the United States watched askance when Prime Minister Narendra Modi embraced President Donald Trump at the Houston rally with “Abki baar Trump ki sarkar”, perceived by all as an electoral endorsement for the Republican party and leader.