“The British Hindu community is an important part of Britain and makes a positive contribution to our nation. A parliamentarian quoted a recent figure to say that British Indians make up around 2 per cent of the population, however, they contribute almost 8 per cent of the GDP. I think most would agree that this is an impressive figure,” said Navendu Mishra, Labour Party MP for Stockport and co-host of the Diwali celebrations in the Palace of Westminster.
“A large proportion of the Hindu community in the UK has a connection with India and several events have been held in the UK and across the world to mark this year as the 75th anniversary of Indian independence,” he said.
The cross-party Diwali celebration was held in the grand State Rooms of the Speaker’s House and marked the largest Festival of Lights event of its kind in the Parliament complex, which brought together parliamentarians, diplomats, community leaders and representatives from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and other British Hindu organisations. The diplomatic presence at the Diwali celebration included Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK Sujit Ghosh, High Commissioner of Nepal Gyan Chandra Acharya and Ugandan High Commissioner Nimisha Madhvani.
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Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “I would like to wish all communities celebrating Diwali peace and joy, both here and across the world.”
Opposition Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer joined Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna Temple President Visakha Dasi, veteran Labour MP Virendra Sharma and Liberal Democrat House of Lords peer Navnit Dholakia to light the candles following prayers for peace.
Conservative Party MP and event co-host Shailesh Vara noted: “It’s fantastic to be in the State Rooms of the Speaker and what this demonstrates is the true diversity of the United Kingdom, that we are able to celebrate Diwali, one of the most important celebrations in the Hindu calendar, in the Palace of Westminster.
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“It is a loud message to the 1.6 million British Indian people who live here. It’s also a message to the rest of the world about our diversity.”
Last year marked the first time that Diwali prayers were recited in the State Rooms of the Speaker’s House, a tradition the co-hosts of the event hope would become an annual one.