Hindu voices in the UK general election

Wednesday 12th June 2024 09:04 EDT

According to the 2021 Census, Hindus in England and Wales numbered 1,032,775, making up 1.7% of the population. Like any other community in the country, they have unique needs and voices that must be heard and addressed.

Nitin Palan MBE, an interfaith champion, philanthropist, and social innovator who has spearheaded several successful projects promoting social cohesion, shared his thoughts with Asian Voice. He highlights what he believes are the sentiments of the Hindu diaspora in the upcoming UK general election.

What are the expectations of the Hindu diaspora from the incoming government?

As emphasised in the Hindu manifesto (detailed coverage on page 14), what we truly require is peace and harmony. We need stricter border controls to prevent the influx of drugs into our country, ensuring our children are shielded from negative influences. Additionally, there's a pressing need for more support for voluntary groups that tirelessly contribute to our communities, yet often struggle due to lack of funding. The manifesto also addresses the necessity for digital watchdogs to monitor and regulate media platforms, particularly concerning biased reporting by outlets like the BBC and The Guardian, whose perspectives may be skewed due to financial interests. Moreover, it's imperative to prioritise issues such as dementia care and substance abuse control, areas that demand greater attention and action.

In terms of leadership, between Starmer and Sunak, where do you perceive people are currently leaning more towards?

I believe politicians often play games, and we shouldn't focus on one politician over another. If everyone prioritises what is right for the country, it won't matter who is in power because we will elect leaders who act in the best interest of all. There's no such thing as what is right for one community over another; it should be about what is right for everyone.

It's not about Labour or Conservative; it's about what benefits the country as a whole. We are frustrated with politicians acting as puppets for other countries, which creates disharmony within the UK. Our politicians need to understand that interfering with other countries can lead to problems at home. Western politicians must realise their job is to serve the nation and not cater to a few commercial interests. They should remember that the UK is part of the world, not just an isolated island, and consider how their actions impact global relationships and contribute to the world at large.

Can you elaborate on that?

Take the Ukraine war, for example. Why should we take sides and supply arms? Human life is important, whether it's Ukrainian or Russian, Palestinian or Jewish. Every life matters. Instead of focusing on harmony, politicians are often preoccupied with supplying arms and profiting from conflict. Politicians need to understand that peace and harmony are crucial for any country, including our own. To truly grow as a nation and as individuals, we must prioritise peace. This is what we need to focus on to ensure a better future for everyone.

Do you think Rishi Sunak has somewhat of a Hindu advantage because of his Hindu identity?

I don't think Sunak has acted particularly in favour of the entire Hindu community or even specifically for the Hindu community. His focus has been on the nation as a whole, and if policies are good for the nation, they will inevitably be good for Hindus too. However, our requirements are indeed specific in a few areas. For instance, we have unique practices like cremation, which is becoming more common even among Christians, but still requires attention to our specific customs.

Vegetarianism for Hindus often means a diet without eggs, which is something we need to ensure is understood and respected. Our children should also have the opportunity to be educated about Hindu Dharma in schools. These aspects, while specific, contribute positively to the broader society. Vegetarianism, for example, is beneficial for the environment. Teaching values of peace and harmony through Hindu education can produce better, more compassionate individuals. Practices like yoga and meditation, which we bring to the global platform, have the potential to make the world a happier place.

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