“Hinduphobia has absolutely no place in our society anywhere and we must all fight this together,” said UK Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer, addressing one of Europe’s largest Navratri celebrations in London last week.
He added: “I know that many people are targeted based on their religion and there’s been a rise in hate crimes in recent years. I’m so tired of our divisive politics. I’m saddened by the division we have seen on the streets of Leicester and Birmingham in recent weeks; violence and hatred spread by extremists exploiting social media. We must all together stand firm against all attempts to spread hate.
“Nor will we tolerate the far right attempting to exploit grievances. We have more that unites us than divides us. Our religion, places and symbols of worship must and will be respected. A Labour government will bring people back together and end this divisive politics.”
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It marked the first time a Labour leader made reference to hate crimes targeted at British Hindus, a move welcomed by diaspora groups.
“A clear shift in stance of Opposition party and its first direct reference to the term ‘Hinduphobia’, as it pledges to fight against hate crimes of all kinds, following attacks on Hindus, their temples and property in Leicester and Birmingham,” said the Friends of India Society International (FISI) UK.
City Hindus Chair Alpesh Patel struck a note of caution as he flagged the shadow cabinet to start reflecting this India-friendly approach.
He told iGlobal: “India is the spiritual home of Hindus worldwide. The Labour Party has a huge problem with elements who are against the democracy of India because they put their religion before UK India relations at a time when UK interests need the alliance more than ever.
“I hope his cabinet will be chosen with that in mind.”
Starmer has been making some obvious efforts to build bridges with the British Indian diaspora, alienated in recent years over a perceived anti-India stance within the Labour Party.
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British Indian Labour MP and Chair of the Steering Committee of the Labour Convention of Indian Organisations (LCIO) Nav Mishra, said: "A very important statement from the UK’s next PM Keir Starmer. Racism has no place in society.
"This isn’t a case of Right vs Left, but a case of right vs wrong. We must have zero tolerance against all forms of racism, including Hinduphobia."
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the Hindu community for your contribution to Britain, for everything you do for us, whether its culture, business, the financial sector, the NHS, supporting your community through the cost of living. Your contribution to Britain is huge. You are an integral part of Britain, the past, the present and very much the future,” Starmer said, during his Dussehra visit.
Insight UK, the diaspora organisation raising concerns around an alarming rise in Hinduphobia in Britain following incidents of serious disorder in Leicester and Birmingham, welcomed Starmer’s “important” statement.
“This is a very important statement by the Leader of the Opposition. A first of its kind by a prominent leader,” it said.