19th Diwali Virtual celebrations: E reception on 11th November 20 -16.00 to 18.000
The Hindu Forum of Britain [HFB] celebrated its 19th Diwali event at the House of Commons on the 11th November. For the first time in history, because of the COVID-19 lockdown, the celebrations took place in the virtual world with more than 94 celebrants in the webinar platform. Over 250 more watched the event on Face Book live turning it into a vibrant and colourful virtual space, full of light and colour, a wonderful manifestation of the spirit of Diwali. This year’s Parliamentary hosts were again Rt Hon Bob Blackman MP and Lord Dholakia OBE.
Dr Ramesh Pattni OBE, Vice President London and South and Trustee of the Chinmaya Mission UK welcomed guests on this great occasion and invited the spiritual commissioners to light the lamps to begin the festival. Visakha Dasi ji, President of the Bhakti Vedanta Manor, ISKCON Temple, Swami Surya Prabha Didi, Head of Brahmrishi Mission and Brahmacharini Shripriya ji Chaitanya, Spiritual head of Chinmaya Mission UK all lit the lamps and chanted prayers to welcome festival congregation.
The President of HFB and Trustee of the HFB Charity , Mrs Trupti Patel, in her opening address to virtual guests warmly welcomed everyone and spoke about the importance and significance of Diwali to the Hindu Community and how the profound principles that reflect this important festival was the basis on which the community responded to the COVID crisis in the UK, with a tremendous amount of sewa being given in all aspects of life in lockdown. She spoke about the formation of the Hindu Emergency, Response Action Team consisting of all the national organisations and temples in the UK coming together to deliver this service. The HFB Diwali at the HoC is one of the most important Interfaith event as participant from all faiths joined hands to dispel darkness and welcome light in their communities and beyond.
Bob Blackman, as the Chair of the British Hindus APPG, holder of Bharat Ratna, MP and Lord Navnit Dholakia, OBE DL also Patron of the HFB both wished everyone a safe, happy and Shubh Diwali. Bob Blackman conveyed the Diwali message from the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson MP and also launched the official E-Diwali Brochure.
Rt Hon. Priti Patel, MP the first Hindu Home Secretary spoke on virtues of the Diwali and how we have exercised them in the current situation, quoting, ‘Diwali is the festival of celebrating best of humanity. Our festival of light is a sign of optimism that we can get through this pandemic together and come out stronger’
Rt Hon. Rishi Sunak, the first Hindu Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned how challenging this year has been for all but it’s because of the love and support we have from all our families makes this a very special occasion and encouraged everyone to celebrate Diwali safely by using technology.
Rt Hon, Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was delighted to be on HFB virtual event and gave a clear message to all communities to keep on working closely with each other to stand tall.
The Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Harvey Hoyle MP, Speaker of the House of Commons sent his greetings for safe Diwali celebrations this year filled with merriment and gladness.
The Rt Hon. Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the official opposition conveyed ‘Lighting a lamp on Diwali symbolises hope which dispels the darkness of despair.’ He appreciated the ‘Sewa’ given by Hindu Communities.
The Rt Hon. Jeremy Quin MP, Minister of State for Defence Procurement was moved by this year’s festival of light held on 11th November 2020, which incidentally is also Armistice Day. He said’ we will never forget that during the great war some three quarter million Hindus were deployed overseas in the Indian army earning 8 Victoria crosses. More than one and a quarter million Hindus played a pivotal role in 2nd World War helping to liberate our continent from Nazi evil and now today is our chance to illuminate your fantastic achievements and to say- THANK YOU’
Dr. Shashank Vikram, Consul General of India, Birmingham congratulated all for safely celebrating this Diwali and expressed his heartfelt tribute to all the Frontline workers who have worked very hard not forgetting some of them who gave up their lives whilst doing so.
We were so delighted to have First Minister of Wales, Rt Hon. Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister of Northern Ireland , Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill for their heartfelt messages, paying tribute to all those in Indian communities across the world for their selfless contributions during this difficult times COVID19 and congratulating HFB for the spectacular virtual event.
Lord Stephen Greenhalgh of Fulham, Minister of State for Building Safety, Fire and Communities wished British Hindu Community a safe, COVID secure Diwali celebrations to protect everyone’s lives exampling core value of Diwali – victory of Good over Evil, Light over Darkness, Knowledge over ignorance.
It was very enlightening to hear Lord Rami Ranger, Lord Jitesh Gadhia and Lord Dolar Popat applauding all volunteers and frontlines workers for their never-ending services during this crisis along with commending Temples and community organisations who have taken a lead in supporting the elderly and vulnerable.
Rt Hon. Theresa Villiers MP, Vice Chair of the APPG British Hindus, thanked Hindu Forum of Britain for organising a tremendously inspiring, thought provoking and happy virtual Diwali event. There were congratulations and felicitations from many Parliamentarians and Political leaders.
We are overjoyed by Dr Tribhuvan Jotangia’s Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK, Mr Dhirajbhai Shah, HSS UK and Mr Rajnish Kashyap, Hindu Council UK appreciating HFB for organizing lively and elegant virtual celebrations and wishing all a very healthy, happy peaceful Diwali and Nutan Varsh.
Mr Puneet Dwivedi, Vice President Scottish Chapter wished everyone Happy Diwali and invited Patrons of HFB, Mr Shashi Vekaria, Mr Rickie Sehgal and Mr C B Patel to give their blessings.
We were privileged to listen to beautiful bhajan by Jahanvi Harrison MPA, watch mesmerizing prayer dances by Artists from Abhinandana Dance Academy, Mrs Nrithya Ram Mohan and Ms Janaki Mehta.
A vote of Thanks was rendered by Mr Velji Vekaria, the Chair for this year’s Diwali Committee of HFB and President of the SKLP. The Team HFB specially thank Cllr Reena Ranger for conducting the event masterfully and the members of the Technical Team of the HSS , Mr Vishal Shah, Mr Harsh Haria and Mr Ritesh Thakar for flawless broadcasting of the event. Finally Mrs Harsha Shukla, MBE Vice President North and President of Hindu Council of North recited a beautiful mantra from Upanishad and the evening concluded with a melodious Dhun by Yog Foundation.
Diwali is the culmination of a journey – the path to enlightenment and establishing oneself in Ram Rajya, the Kingdom of Lord Ram. In a sense it is a metaphorical journey of the triumph over the vicissitudes of life; it is about a variety of relationships both human and divine and how these can be transformed through devotion and dedication; the journey is individual as well as collective bringing life and joy to both. The destination is one of being established in devotion to and enlightenment of the Supreme.
As we celebrate Diwali in all its meaning and significance, we remember that it is also about a unique form of leader –the Servant Leader. Lord Rama gives the analogy of the symbolism of the chariot where the four wheels represent the four attributes of character, courage, ethics and valor which support and take the vehicle to its true destination. The four reins of the chariot are forgiveness, compassion, consistency and equanimity which represent the mental attributes and the marks of a true and effective servant leader, able to lead society towards light and joy, controlling the four horses symbolizing strength, energy, enthusiasm and passion. This is what the Hindu Forum of Britain has always aspired for and achieved in many areas of its activities as the major umbrella body of Hindu organisations in the four nations of the United Kingdom.
Raksha Bandhan 2020 Bond of Love
protection रक्षाबन्धन with the British
Armed forces, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy
Raksha Bandhan, also known as Rakhi, Sanskrit, literally, "the bond of protection, obligation, or care," - is an age-old Hindu festival that celebrates brotherhood and love For the Hindus serving in the Armed Forces, the festival holds special significance as it symbolises the duty of the Armed Forces in protecting their society. 2019 Hindu Forum Britain (Scotland Chapter) along with Defence Hindu Network celebrated Raksha Bandhan tour across a number of temples in Scotland.Highlighting the ties and values shared between the Hindu community and the Armed Forces. 2020 -Due to Covid19 crisis this time we did smaller event in Edinburgh and Aberdeen HIndu temple Brother sister's day.
HFB meets New Labour Leader
The HFB wrote to Sir Keir Starmer, the new leader of the Labour Party, on 8th April in which we shared some serious concerns the Indian/Hindu community had with the Labour Party. The Labour leader wrote back on 27th April and whilst this is welcome, the issues raised by the HFB had not been addressed properly. On 30th April 2020 a teleconference took place between the representatives of the HFB led by Ms Trupti Patel and Sir Keir Starmer and his team. The HFB considers this as the first step in what we hope will be a continued positive dialogue for the Labour Party to learn, and to understand, the issues arising from within the community.
Those in attendance at this teleconference were:
Hindu Forum Britain (HFB): Mrs Trupti Patel (President), Mrs Harsha Shukla MBE (VP North) and Dr Ramesh Pattni OBE (VP South).
Labour Party: Sir Keir Starmer MP, RT Hon Angela Raynor MP, Rt Hon Janet Daby MP, Baroness D Lawrence and Navendu Mishra MP.
The discussion was cordial and Sir Keir Starmer confirmed that he was aware of the concerns, that as the new leader he wanted to reset relations with the Indian community. He went on to say, he wanted proper engagement and that the Labour Party needed to hear and to be held accountable. He further added that if the changes are not seen then he wanted the HFB to tell him so without any reservation. He accepted that an apology was due to the community. His team echoed his thinking to move forward and build good relations with the Hindu community.
The President of the HFB, Ms Trupti Patel thanked Sir Keir Starmer for taking the step in this important dialogue. She pointed out that the reservations and concerns raised in her letter to him are serious and require the Labour Party to address those urgently. She reminded him of the exclusion of Hindus in CV 19 steering group and most importantly Hate filled incident unfolding on the 15th of August 2019 on India’s Independence Day when some 4000 strong group of anti-Indian protestors threw missiles at the gathering of 200 people celebrating Independence day and created a very tense situation. She also pointed that it was alarming that some Labour politicians took an active part and voiced their views on Kashmir that were a detriment to community cohesion in the UK.
Sir Keir Starmer suggested that after the call it was essential to make sure that we don't let things fall by and to set up systems for communications that allow for continuous and direct communication with the senior leadership of the Labour Party.
Dr Pattni pointed out that unless there are channels and systems of dialogue between the Labour leadership and the Hindu community, there will remain such tensions due to biased thinking in the Party. Mrs Shukla pointed out that there should be trust and respect which should reflect in transparent communication and be inclusive of all faiths in any policy forming process. There needs to be a practical action plan as a way forward in dialogue which was echoed by Trupti Patel as doing the walk beyond just the talk.
The meeting concluded on the note that the HFB will be writing to Sir Keir Starmer with their observations on his letter as well as the teleconference call. In so doing to give a series of actions points that the party can work on immediately.
The Hindu Forum Britain have now written to Sir Keir Starmer with their observations as detailed in the letter below.
Mrs Trupti Patel