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