Dr Prakash Shah’s, “Against Caste in British Law”, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2015, is an important and highly relevant work.
It exposes flawed premises on which the caste clause in the UK Equality Act (2010) is formulated. There is a brief historical account of the Protestant Christian framework on which the oppressive hierarchy of a “caste system” was framed as an instrument of British colonial power. This is followed by how this fiction has since been adopted in law, first in post-independence India’s “caste” based reservations, resulting in conflicts of secular interests between imagined “caste hierarchies” and now the potential consequences for British Indians being accused of racism, and whose culture, religions, associations, and businesses threatened with prosecution.
The book exposes why Hindus are right to consider this UK legislation a threat to Indian culture and a device of attack from Christian proselytizers. It provides important pointers to research and policy questions about Indian culture, history, narrative, and future, which all who are interested in human civilization need to ponder and address.
The incisive foreword by Dr Gautam Sen sets the colonial underpinnings of the “caste system” starting with the racist body measurements and classifications used by the British to make sense of Indian people and their culture. Sen exposes the flawed logic of a “hierarchy”, supposedly dominated by evil “high caste” Brahmins subjugating “lower castes” via a static, durable, hereditary mechanism of “false religion”.
This Christian fabricated “caste system” gets attention over important historical facts, such as the actual dynamics of Indian society, the 1000 years old upheaval and genocide by Islamic invasions and famines under British colonialism. Enslavement and cultural destruction are sanitised and “caste” is adopted as the definition of Indian society in “secular” history and post-independence politics.
The Protestant colonial-Orientalist-Secular view of Indian culture and how this informs the “moral” basis for legislation together with the questionable research by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are explained.
In this view, three foundations support each other: First, the Protestant colonial account which deems Hindu culture as morally corrupt, static, and racist; with Brahmins as priests of false religion.
Second, the evolution of this theology with Orientalism and the discredited Aryan invasion theory. Race is made the defining aspect of Indian people in which fair “Aryan” Brahmins brought their “caste” based false Hinduism and Sanskrit to dominate the dark “lower caste” natives.
Third, the secularisation of “caste” as universally accepted in which the Brahmin priesthood exists at the heart of Indian religion and all knowledge about India.
It is as if, over the past 200 years, little new knowledge has been added beyond creating a link between Hinduism and an imaginary Aryan invasion. Leading UK Race-Rights academics of Indian origin are so immersed in “colonial consciousness” and distant from their culture that they see British Hindu society, its temples and community institutions as founded purely on “caste prejudice”.
Others allege that British Indians practice apartheid and therefore are racists, because, for example, their voluntary choice of marriage partners within their own jati groups is immoral (and potentially unlawful), and thus must be legislated against.
Another, on the EHRC academic team, dubiously connected similarities between bricks used in contemporary “Dalit” dwellings and those found in Harappan sites as evidence of an Aryan invasion and “caste oppression”.
The EHRC, having delegated research to these scholars of the Protestant Colonial-Orientalist-Secular school, has now declared itself an advocate for divisive “minority rights” attitudes while undermining the successful Hindu community.
Given the church roots of the “caste system”, it is no surprise that the initial sponsor of legislation was Lord Harries, a former Bishop of the Church of England who has a consistent anti-India, anti-Hindu record. He has been supported by other Christian and Labour peers of similar opinion together with some who are Hindu in name only. Harries takes an obsessive interest in “Dalit” welfare in India whilst having little to say about hundreds of underage white girls that have been sexually abused by “Asian” men in his former diocese.
The book documents the tone of parliamentary debates, by, for example, the quote of Lord Lester, a Queen’s Counsel, who saw the evil of “caste” so clearly that commenting about research evidence, he remarked, “I simply do not understand why research is needed”.
It is a tragic irony that people who call themselves anti-racists have adopted racist theories about Indians to literally legislate, subjugate and destroy their religions and culture.
The remainder chapters demonstrate the author’s legal expertise and offers practical insights.
Potential implications on those of Indian origin/religions in their personal, associational, and professional lives are foreseen, as are the impact on community and even private events such as Navaratri or facilities hire for weddings becoming grounds for artificially divisive legal disputes.
Inconvenient questions, avoided by the pro-legislation lobby are raised: who determines hierarchy of “high” and “low” caste? In a dispute, who judges? Is alleged discrimination only a one-way street?
How many “Dalits” are there in the UK? Anything from 50,000 to one million has been quoted in Parliament. Would there be a statutory need for “caste” monitoring, and if so, would only Indian organizations have to comply? Would only employees of Indian origin need to declare their “caste affiliation”? If so, is this not discriminatory?
Why can Christian schools and Muslim cemeteries discriminate on religious grounds but a Hindu Navarati ceremony be potentially prosecutable by allegation of “caste” discrimination?
How can law dictate who one chooses to marry?
More disturbing is the likelihood that the defendant would carry the burden of proof.
The book is also of interest to those in India since it provides solid evidence of threats to Indian society and potentially malicious global influence from bodies including the European Parliament, UN Human Rights organs, and “Dalit” fronted Christian groups.
Shah shows how, despite half-hearted attempts to disassociate “caste” from Indian religions, the Lords legislators show consistent contempt of Indians and particularly Hindus. He presents evidence exposing their proselytization goals and extending the divisive, poverty perpetuating Indian reservations policy to Christian converts, without daring to contemplate similar catastrophe in the UK.
In their quest for souls in the final “pagan” frontier, former colonists go to any depth to stall India’s progress.
The Chandok v Tirkey (2014) case in which the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that “caste” may already be covered in UK law, and the positions of the parties and potential contradictions are also highlighted.
The EHRC is shown to reveal its prejudice against Hindus by its back-door tactics of pre-emptive intervention and arguing for a judicial extension of the law, despite the well-known fact that bringing the legislation into force was highly contested.
This important book contributes valuably to understanding the current pressures upon Indian culture. It draws cautionary lessons for Indians both here and in India, whose policy makers and academia must look afresh at India’s history, civilization and future contribution to humanity.