The Hindu Forum of Britain [HFB] celebrated its 19th Diwali event at the House of Commons on 23rd October 2016 transforming the Terrace Pavilion into a vibrant and colourful space, full of light and laughter, a wonderful manifestation of the spirit of Diwali. Over 190 people attended the function and representatives from all sections of the society were present. Every year the HFB brings Diwali to the heart of the UK democratic system bringing together on one platform Ministers, Peers and MPs from all parties and dignitaries and leaders from many different sections of society, including interfaith and business leaders, Hindu community leaders and representatives of many temples in the UK. This year’s Parliamentary hosts were Bob Blackman MP and Lord Dholakia OBE and the master of ceremony was Barrister Jayesh Jotangia from the APPG Hindu group.
Following on from the opening prayers by the priest from ISKCON, The President of HFB, Mrs Trupti Patel, in her opening address to the gathering 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 can be imbibed by individuals to create a harmonious and integrated society. She spoke about mass movement in the interests of the Hindu community which requires a coming together as a powerful force to effect change.
The co-hosts were then invited to give an address. Hon Bob Blackman, who has been re-elected as the Chair of the British Hindus APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group ) strongly asserted regarding the two issues which are of current concern to the Hindu community: the impending protest march in London planned for Diwali Day and the Kashmir issue which has been at the forefront of our minds. In no uncertain terms, he said the march was really an affront to the community being planned for on Diwali Day. He had personally raised this issue in Parliament with the Prime Minister.. He further added that ‘whole of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is a sovereign part of India and Indian Government should be congratulated for restoring full constitution of India and equal rights for all citizens’ . He mentioned ‘ bringing together people from across the Hindu faith , various different temples , various different organisations as one voice, actually acting and speaking with one voice is critical , no need to create a new organisation every time any problem surfaces’.
Lord Navnit Dholakia congratulated the community in its achievements and echoed Bob’s thoughts on the two issues confronting it. He also spoke about how important it was to have a Hindu presence in both the Houses of Parliament as this not only allows us to have a voice but allows us to protect our place and space in the UK society. The co-hosts were accompanied on stage by the three Vice-Presidents of HFB: Mr Punnet Dwivedi (Scotland), Mr Tarang Shelat (Midlands) and Dr Ramesh Pattni (South). Rt Hon Priti Patel, the first Hindu Home Secretary spoke on Diwali and highlighted the importance of Diwali as a celebration of the noble Hindu values. She added that Hindus are very much visible in all sectors in the UK, and that the community was going from strength to strength in their contributions to the UK society and economy. She stated how delighted she was with the efforts of the HFB in organising this event and in its efforts to bring to the forefront the challenges to the Hindu community.
The Home secretary was joined by the main sponsors of the event, Burnt Oak Builders Merchants Mr Lakxman Kerai and Vascroft Foundation, Mr Shashibhai Vekaria, on stage and
both spoke of how important it was to support such events, congratulated the HFB on its achievements and wished everyone a happy Diwali. Paul Scully, MP , while referring to his Indian heritage as his grandmother who was born in Kolkata, applauded the fantastic British Indian success story and said “I am looking forward to celebrations in Sutton with my whole family.” He was felicitated by Mr Navendu Halai , son of much loved trustee of the HFB ,Late Shree Haribhai Halai. Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs thanked HFB for starting the Diwali festival at the HoC and providing an opportunity for parliamentarians to support the Hindu community. She was joined on the stage by two SNP MPs from Scotland, Deidre Brock MP and Alison Thewliss MP who were delighted to have joined the Diwali celebrations here in Parliament and sang praises of their local temples in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively and the Hindu Scottish community. The representative of the High Commission of India first Secretary Mr Rohit Vadhwana said that HFB is celebrating Diwali in Parliament is really important and imparted fantastic news from the homeland of all occasion of the Festival of Lights, each and every village in India now has electricity. Emphasising on the importance of the festival, Shailesh Vara, MP said that in present time, there is great need in the world for light of wisdom and forgiveness, to counter misunderstanding, mistrust and hatred for fellow human beings. The HFB patron Shree CB Patel gave his blessings to all the volunteers of the HFB and wonderful work of HFB currently with a goal to serve and take up issues of violent actions against the Hindu community. Lord Popat reiterated the HFB mantra of ‘Proud to be British Proud to be Hindu ‘and narrated a success story of Hindu community in the UK Interspersed with all the gaiety of speeches and lighting of lamps, Keerti Naren Dasa presented a stunning classical Indian dance performance based on a story of Ramayana and which was really appreciated by all the guests. Rt Hon Preeti Patel personally blessed the young dancer and congratulated her for a brilliant performance.
Many leaders of the community were called on stage to acknowledge their work for the community and they all spoke about the great role HFB is playing in the UK at the moment.
Pandit Satish Sharma, the General Secretary of the NCHT UK said that 2020 will prove to a significant year for HFB in its presence in the UK as the political voice of the UK Hindus. Dr T Jotingia , President of the Vishwa Hindu Parisad was given an opportunity to launch their booklet of Hindu Conclave .Finally, a vote of Thanks was rendered by Mr Velji Vekaria, the Chair for this year’s Diwali Committee of HFB together with the Patron of HFB Mr Rickie Segal who also joined the guests in expressing thanks for a wonderful Diwali the House of Commons. Celebration were concluded by prayers from HGS B.S. Tirtha Maharaj’.
The HFB has a strong voice in political arena and with the support of grass route and regional organisations and cross-party parliamentarians achieve desired outcome be it a campaign or consultations . Diwali has become a time when the world is reminded that we as human beings, in our lives, must find the light of wisdom that will sustain us and the generations to come into the future, the light that will counter the forces of negativity and darkness. The eternal message and the spirit of Diwali has stood the test of time and is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago.
Dr Ramesh Pattni
VP South HFB, Chair of PR
Photos Courtesy: CK Naidu