In a rousing speech at the House of Lords in London, Lord Jitesh Gadhia reflected upon the quiet contributions of the Hindu community to enrich every aspect of British life and condemned attempts at misrepresentations of the open and inclusive message of .
Addressing a special gathering to mark the 30th anniversary of the National Hindu Students’ Forum (NHSF) UK last week, Lord Gadhia – who made UK Parliament history when he swore his oath of allegiance on the ‘Rig Veda’ over five years ago – declared that it was important to fight back against attempts at using Hindus and Indians as “punch bags”.
“Not only would the UK be poorer in every sense without British Hindus – but in many areas of activity, such as the health service – our society would struggle to function without the exceptional talent and skills of the Hindu and wider Indian community,” said the British Indian peer.
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“Yet ours is a quiet contribution – not a bombastic or attention-seeking one – anchored in the very best dharmic values of duty and service. But, at times, the absence of public profile has acted against the interests of Hindus – especially the simplistic media portrayal which conflates the politics of the subcontinent with the underlying philosophy of Hinduism. Regrettably, Hindus and Indians have become a punch bag in too from certain quarters,” he noted.
Lord Gadhia lamented that the public understanding of Hinduism, the world’s third-largest religion, remains surprisingly shallow and often dominated by images of rituals rather than an appreciation of a 5,000-year-old ancient civilisation from the Indus Valley.
He noted: “Now, more than ever, Hindus require a stronger voice and profile to counter the distorted representation.
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“The essence of is to be open, inclusive and tolerant of others. We don’t come from a theocratic country, or tradition, but instead from a civilisation which accepts that there are many paths, respecting and embracing difference.
“This is evident across every corner of India and the challenge for us all is to better explain our values and the ground reality – that we represent not only the oldest tradition in the world but one of the most peaceful and tolerant.”
The London-based investment banker turned parliamentarian declared that in an era of increasing ideological competition and global fragmentation, Hinduism and Hindu values are more relevant than they have ever been.
“As torch bearers of the noble values of Vasudeva Kutumbakam – the world is one family – Hindus have a pivotal role to play in countering the forces which are making societies more inward, insular and intolerant,” he said.
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Lord Gadhia played host to NHSF (UK)’s travelling exhibition, ‘’, as a story of two halves: of struggle and sacrifice, as well as positive progress and remarkable contribution to every field of human endeavour. He called upon the British Indian student community to continue to support future generations to understand and celebrate their culture and identity.
Among some of the other celebrations planned to mark 30 years of NHSF (UK) include a “Yatra: The Great British Journey” through the Peak District and Seven Sisters in early July as a celebration of the Hindu message of ascribing sanctity to the land we inhabit.