British Hindus urge Home Secretary Priti Patel for action in Oxford University hate speech row

British Hindus urge Home Secretary Priti Patel for action in Oxford University hate speech row
Courtesy: Reuters

The campaign against an Oxford University faculty member, in the UK on an Exceptional Talent Visa, gathered further momentum this week with leading British Hindu and students’ organisations appealing to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel for action.

The letter, signed by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha UK, Hindu Council UK, Hindu Forum of Britain Hindu, Swayamsevak Sangh (UK), Indian National Students Association (UK), National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHTUK), National Hindu Students' Forum (UK), and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (UK), calls on the Cabinet minister to urgently investigate serious concerns of religious hate speech and take action over any breach of visa guidelines as a result.

The letter dated April 16 reads: “Dr [Abhijit] Sarkar has been granted a special visa to be employed in the UK. The Home Office guidelines for ‘Exclusion from the UK’ clearly sights ‘Unacceptable Behaviour’ as one of the relevant categories, including ‘publishing or distributing material’ or ‘using a position of responsibility such as a teacher’ to ‘foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK’.

“Apart from these grounds of exclusion conducive to the public good, there will be specific conditions attached to Dr Sarkar’s visa which also have been breached.”

Escalating campaign

The letter to the Home Secretary comes a week after as many 119 British Hindu organisations issued a joint letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urge action against the faculty member for his alleged “Hindu hatred and bigoted views”. It also called for the suspension of the faculty member while a "thorough investigation" is concluded into his social media posts directed at Rashmi Samant – the first Indian woman to be elected President of the Oxford Student Union (SU) who was forced to resign amid controversy over some of her past social media posts.

“The police investigation into the online religious hate speech by Dr Abhijit Sarkar appears to lack urgency. The absence of visible progress risks the loss of confidence in the police from a large, concerned part of the population, not restricted to Hindus, as demonstrated by around 100 hate crime complaints with police and an online petition which has reached almost 50,000 signatories,” reads the latest letter.

It adds: “The learning environment at all universities should be safe for students from home and abroad.

“Campus-based hatred, which has resulted in unrest among British Hindus & Indian students and an outrage globally, is of legitimate interest to the Home Office, even if individual investigations of faculty members are a matter for the university.”

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Investigations

The University of Oxford has said its investigation into the matter remains ongoing as it reiterated that the institution remains committed to creating an environment where people of all backgrounds, “including our Hindu students and staff”, can feel welcome, valued and respected.

An Oxford University spokesperson said: “An independent investigation into these online comments, which have been made from a private, non-University account, is ongoing and we must allow time for this formal process to be followed.

“We never comment on individual cases because of the importance of not prejudicing an investigation as well as protecting the privacy of those involved, but the University thoroughly investigates all formal complaints that our harassment or equality policies have been breached.

“When doing so, the investigation process is launched without delay, and, when appropriate, independent investigators are appointed. Cases are resolved as swiftly as is possible to ensure equitable treatment of all parties.”

Thames Valley Police has confirmed its officers are reviewing “all of the available information to establish the full circumstances of the complaint”.

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