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The Hindu Manifesto – Action for Harmony

The Hindu Manifesto – Action for Harmony

Voting is our democratic right, and politics is an everyday reality. Our choices and activities are influenced by government decisions in a variety of ways, from policies of education and schooling for our children, to our healthcare and wellbeing, safety and  jobs, economic prosperity and taxes.

Often it is not easy to tell who influences the policies, or how we can vote to change course and exercise our own preferences to change the government strategies. Political parties have their own beliefs and priorities. However, on July 4, we are faced with a number of choices, and it is important that we exercise our vote thoughtfully.

Last weekend, I was honoured and delighted to be invited to an ‘Action for Harmony’ conference for Hindu community leaders from all over the country, to help discuss the pressing issues faced by us, and also launch a Hindu Manifesto for the first time. Culture wars have become such a normal part of modern life that attacks and counter-attacks on beliefs and traditions have been routinised, leading to serious consequences for minorities and ‘foreigners’. Traditionally, the Hindu culture of hard work and enterprise has helped us to assimilate, be accepted and even prosper economically, but given the times we live in, none of this can be taken for granted. Prejudice needs to be stamped out.

At the conference, we learnt about anti-Hindu hate crimes, and I was shocked by some of the true stories of attacks on our women and young girls, leading to physical and sexual abuse. Often we respond by hiding the truth as we want to preserve our honour and reputation, and the crimes go unpunished, and can grow in intensity. On campus, our students feel vulnerable when they are away from home, and stereotypical views about Hindus, the caste system or arranged marriage can so colour people’s judgement of us that we cower down and deny our heritage. When the National Hindu Students Forum organises faith spaces or aarti worship ceremonies, attendance is poor, although sports activities are popular and help students to meet one another and socialise. It is rare for us to have our own faith space on any campus, even though this is a right and so is our entitlement to pastoral care and chaplaincy. I attended a session on deculturation of our students, something which I found very disturbing to hear, given that I am passionate about Dharmic values and ethical education.

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The Hindu Manifesto assists us in the questions we can ask politicians and encourages us to organise local Hustings events where candidates standing for election can answer our questions. It asks prospective politicians about:

·       what they will do to prevent Hindu hate crime;

·       to help protect our sacred Dharmic Temples and Community Centres;

·       fairer access to education, including authentic language and religious education for our students, with support for O Level studies in Hinduism;

·        to help us care for our elderly and disabled members;

·       to value and celebrate our positive, law-abiding citizenship and contribution to society in terms of business and the professions, including job creation and civic participation and harmony.

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I found the conference very stimulating and energising, demonstrating that we have so much to learn from one another when we unite. Make sure you exercise your vote!

Professor Atul K. Shah [@atulkshah] teaches and writes about Indian wisdom on business, culture and community at various UK universities and is a renowned international author, speaker and broadcaster.  

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