‘Hindus in Britain oppose Corbyn’ – this claim has emerged during this general election. And it is a lie.
But it is being spread by the right-wing media as part of their bias against Corbyn. The truth – that Corbyn is a life-long anti-racist and anti-caste campaigner challenging discrimination suffered by many of South Asian origin – is ignored. Where then does this story come from?
It originates in a statement from an organisation called the Hindu Council UK (HCUK).
The HCUK statement claims that: “Suddenly the Hindu community has been excluded and dumped from their candidature selection… Jeremy Corbyn always speaks against Islamophobia, whereas any anti-Semitic and anti-Hindu positions remain unchallenged… It is a sad state of affairs that a major political party in our country which used to be a progressive socialist voice has veered towards what almost is a fascist ideology..”. These are false claims from start to finish.
In reality Corbyn’s manifesto offers a way to improve the living standards of all working and young people – from free education releasing graduates from the average £54,000 debt that they and their families are saddled with thanks to the Tory trebling of fees; to reversing the privatisation destroying our NHS; to a 5% pay rise for all public sector workers and workers’ rights for all workers and an end to zero-hour contracts. Corbyn’s housing policies – from mass building of council homes on social rents, to rent control in the private sector – will benefit all who worry that their children face a precarious future. In fact, the majority of the manifesto policies offer an improvement to the living standards for the overwhelming majority of the population – especially those who suffer at the hands of exploitative bosses, racist greedy landlords and a society where Black and Asian people are often at the sharpest end.
So who is HCUK? By your friends shall you be known. The far-right racist Tommy Robinson wrote on his website, “Hindu Council disown fascist Labour Party”. It might appear strange that Robinson, a racist, and the Hindu Council share their hatred of Corbyn given his former organisation, the EDL organised a march in Walthamstow, shouting in front of Hindu temples that it should be burned down. But both hope to exploit the fears and anger of sections of working class people about their falling living standards by spreading lies and fear. Not a single organisation that mobilises oppressed Daliths or condemns caste discrimination is in any way linked to HCUK.
The whole statement by HCUK is slander at best. These are the two issues that motivate the attack on Corbyn:
a. HCUK defends the caste system which Corbyn opposes
b. HCUK defends attacks by the Indian government on the democratic rights of the Kashmiri people under Prime Minister Modi. Corbyn has a record of standing in solidarity with the Kashmiris.
HCUK opposes any challenge to caste oppression in Britain. They vehemently opposed the Corbyn-backed proposal in parliament for caste oppression to be recognised within the Equality Act 2010. In 2010 an attempt to illegalise the caste discrimination suffered by many of South Asian origin was rejected by the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour. In 2013, MPs again voted against adding caste discrimination to the Equality Act by 307 to 243.
During the 2013 parliamentary debate ministers, led by then ‘equalities’ minister Lib Dem Jo Swinson, continued to claim there is insufficient evidence of the extent of caste discrimination. Research by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) showed caste-based discrimination in schools and workplaces. In one incident a student was refused entry to a school. Protesters outside Parliament during the debate told of their suffering.
In 2015, following Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, the Economist wrote: “Mr Corbyn is a long-standing and passionate advocate of the Dalits, people from India who complain of being treated terribly by their compatriots because of their low status under the caste system.” This is where HCUK’s opposition stems from.
Then and since the Tory elite has worked closely with the Hindu elite. At that time the managing director of the Hindu Council UK, Anil Bhanot, defended the caste system claiming that the “caste phenomenon here has now evolved into more of a clan system” and “there is no discrimination in this”. He asked “how can such a clubbing together of people be other than a healthy and cohesive force in society?”
Incredibly HCUK also attacked those who oppose the vile practice of ‘untouchability’ – one of the most cruel forms of caste practice. HCUK claimed that: “There are now record levels of homeless people in the UK, who are analogous with the outcasts of Indian society. British menial workers seldom interact socially with those of the higher echelons” as proof that a form of ‘untouchability’ is acceptable.
HCUK has cited the fate of Hindus in Kashmir as proof of discrimination against Hindus. Like their counterparts in India, the RSS (hindu nationalist organisation with fascistic core) linked to the government party BJP, they often use the issue of Kashmir to whip up Hindu nationalist patriotism – which is then used to hide all the right-wing attacks on the workers and poor in India and the inability of the government to solve any of the huge social problems in India.
A weak resolution passed at the Labour Party conference about the brutal attack on the democratic rights of Kashmir population spearheaded by the Modi regime is another cause of opposition waged by Hindu nationalists.
Under Tony Blair’s leadership the right-wing self-appointed leaders of many community organisations were promoted. They were often subject to no democratic accountability. Their position was dependent on their ability to keep the communities separate from collective struggles of the wider working class. Instead of the proven methods of united struggle by working class people against the attacks we face, they promoted ‘deal-making’ with Labour councils. This is a factor in the undermining of community ability to defend jobs and services.
We must reject this identity politics which is always used to divide and weaken the working class. South Asian workers must come together to oppose these divisive elites in the communities who do not act on the basis of community interest, but with their own capitalist/nationalists/castist interests. We must join together on the basis of better homes, jobs and services for all. We should join together to continue to fight to win all the good policies put forward by the Corbyn manifesto. And whatever the election result, united democratic working class struggle must be built and a mass workers’ party based on socialist policies that offer a way forward for all workers and young people.