The oldest and the largest democracies in the world have a strange relationship. No sooner does anyone think that there could be a fruitful partnership between equals, the old bogey of the White Man’s Burden rears its ugly head.
Nowadays, that dinosaur, the House of Lords, barring some honourable and exemplary exceptions, is brimming with brown-faced wannabes or has-beens, some never-weres and even a sprinkling of never-really-were-and–never-really-will-bes, recruited in the interests of Britain’s very own reservations policy, ostensibly known in PC circles as “diversity”, to do their masters bidding. These unelected, self-important busybodies never tire at searching for the world’s wrongs to be put right or to dictate to democratically elected governments of long gone colonies as to how they should run their affairs. In this regard, the near exclusive concern of the puppeteers and their puppets is with alleged wrongs committed by Hindus and India.
So, it should not be a surprise that one of these lordships, Lord Singh of Wimbledon, should call a debate on religious freedom in India, and naturally, the usual anti-India, anti-Hindu brigade put in some vocal appearances to celebrate another open season.
At this point, it’s well worth the reader’s pleasure to sidetrack a little to view this clip  from masters of satire, Messrs Atkinson and Smith, where the headmaster takes up his issue with a “most entertaining essay on a parrot” with a rather dim student. For, in this little sketch lies a fine metaphor.
What exactly did these ennobled nobles present? The usual evidence of the abolition of “Religious Freedoms” in India (since May 2014, or so we are continually being told) was trotted out :
Amnesty International, of which the Executive Director in India is such an enlightened humane soul that no one sees the cruel irony in his holding this so called “Human Rights” position whilst using his column to ridicule the Gurus of one particular faith in a national newspaper . Aha, but perhaps, those are not “my Gurus” in the eyes of the Lord of Wimbledon, so what does it matter? That’s what Amnesty International is all about, innit?
USCIRF, the “highly respected” commission on “Religious Freedom”, a US cabal that goes about the planet as executioner, jury and judge (in that order), though quietly ignored by the Chinese and various Arab nations alike, being denied Indian visas to merely confirm their prejudices, was of course in the top echelon of incriminating evidence. Presuming to speak for “religious freedom” but peopled by sundry elected, unelected and unelectable monotheists, who, as has been so critically examined, “listen to the propaganda machine of their numerous missionary groups coming out of the American Bible-belt…”  and one of whose members, a Ms Swett Lantor, presumed to lecture the Indian electorate on who to vote for months before the elections: ““For the people of India, I think it is important for them to consider very carefully who it is who they want to be their next prime minister….” .
Muslims being (wrongly) accused of “forcibly kidnapping and marrying Hindu women and slaughtering cows”, and “Muslim villages in … Bihar being routinely attacked” How could this not be true? It would give the average british citizen the impression that the rioters of Malda were all brutal Hindus; the main accused rapist of Nirbhaya was not the guilty party, the whole of India’s Hindu manhood were; and that the various cases of “Love Jihad” are a lie. Why, even Rinkle Kumari and the scores of other “Hindu women” in the paradise of the pure across the border actually choose to be forcibly kidnapped and married, and that they do so it the fault of Hindus. Then citizen Bob would be confused as to what is so different in the UK that causes the Lord to protest against grooming of Hindu and Sikh girls, predominantly by men from a particular group  but similar events in India are mere accusations.
As for slaughtering cows, one would imagine from Lord Singh’s throwaway remark that the Indian government was breaching a constitutional right afforded to all citizens, and which was actually compulsory during benevolent Mughal times  .
And, who is to blame for all this?
Why, it is has to be Hindus. They elected Modi, leader of the “nationalist BJP”, and since he came to power, there is “increasing support for the Hindu extremist agenda”. Indeed, his lordship is so convinced of this that “Hindu extremists” appear three times in his argument; “Hindus” make a further five appearances – on each and every occasion it is in a derogatory, accusatory light. Not once does “Hindu” or “Hinduism” appear in a neutral tone. 80% of the people of India are to blame, it would seem.
Evidently, Modi is somehow responsible for the flaws in the Indian Constitution even though it was written before his lordship was ennobled, never mind May 2014: Hindus are guilty of “dilute(ing) and erod(ing) Sikh identity”; even with Bollywood films, which, to go by the “excellent briefing notes” prepared by the House Library, is cited wherein Sikhs are “shown participating in Hindu religious ceremonies involving idol worship”. Funny that mocking Hindu beliefs and ridiculing Shiva in the film PK, by a poor, oppressed “minority” megastar, who wife feels so unsafe in “intolerant” India, was not mentioned since that was probably also a case of these Bollywood tsars, all Hindus, mocking their own deities. And, this “idol” Shiva is not to be confused with any other that is the exclusive property of followers of “forward-looking teachings on Human rights”. What strange use of such noble teachings to “other” a billion people at a stroke?
Of course, various other incidents like “award waapsi” and “ghar waapsi” get a mention as if they were hate crimes in a community the size of Wimbledon rather than a nation with a population of nearly 1.3 billion. A passing reference to the 1984 riots, which for some unknown reason, his lordship had not thought to make as much capital of prior to May 2014, when the perpetrators of the murder of thousands of Sikhs were in power, nor had he used a debate on “Religious Freedom” in the House to challenge the previous Indian Prime Minister.
Perhaps, the most perverse of all his arguments was “students as a New Delhi university who were stopped from demonstrating against the imposition of the death penalty on a Muslim convicted of terrorism”. Let’s forget that the trial and appeals were two decades in the making via an independent judiciary and the execution was carried out during the previous administration. Let’s also take it as given that there is not a shred of support for a convicted terrorist in his tone; however, it is fair to ask whether his lordship would consider it acceptable for students in the UK to shout “Britain ki Barbadi tak, Bradford ki Azadi tak jung karenge jung karenge; Britian ka tukra honge…” whilst chanting the name of a known terrorist in the same breath as additional words which explicitly project religious hatred towards “others”?
Let’s make it easier for his lordship, since, the House, from its ever so polite “My Lords, I thank the noble Lord…”mode of speech, sets a shining national example for decorum and legislates on matters large and small, and ask what he would say about Freedom of speech in “Safe spaces for Students like Imogen Wilson at Edinburgh University  or to challenge the PC Plod from a constabulary not far from Wimbledon who arrested some chap in Croydon for a stupid and senseless remark about Brussels to an unsuspecting Muslim woman going about her business. Are these people more of a threat to the breach of the civil peace than the students in Delhi were? Should he not be worrying about Imogen’s and Matthew’s rights, however misguided they may be, than to use parliamentary privilege to voice prejudice against an elected PM of a foreign country in particular and “Idol worshipping” Hindus in general?
Even more pertinently, Lord Singh may want to introspect on Asad Shah’s tragic murder  in the realm of which he is an ennobled Lord, for expressing Easter greetings to his Christian friends. What about the religious freedoms of UK citizens, or is it the case that Scotland is not an independent former colony so they cannot be lectured to?
Having set the scene, the field was open for the self proclaimed Doyen of the Dalits in the House, Lord Harries, a former bishop, to put the boot in. In a speech spanning barely 700 words, there were four references to “Hindu extremist” and one about “Hindu-inflicted violence”, and various varieties of Dalit: Hindu, Christian, and others. It is very strange how a man of the cloth who presumably professes belief in one god can be so assiduous about classifying Indians as, say, an expert in Linnaean system taxonomy or a butterfly collector might .
The old, worn out canard of the victim of rape, a “71 year old nun” as the presumed work of “Hindu extremists” comes out once again. Maybe the House Library, which these busy Lords seem to rely so heavily upon, is not only incorrect on the nun’s age, but is neither up to date on events, since the BBC had reported the religious identities of the arrested men in April last year. Or perhaps the Lord has little compunction in twisting the truth to paint Hindus as the personification of evil. Here is a small contribution to the Library’s resources by someone who knows India intimately and has a foothold n both Indic and Christian cultures: Maria Wirth’s “Christians are not under attack in India”.
The natural defence of NGO’s is also to be expected from the Lord who is so committed to Christian “social justice” around the globe that he seemed not know of the hundreds of underage children subjected to sexual abuse by predators in his own neck of the woods . It is not as if Oxford was unique; plenty of English towns and cities have suffered grooming and mass rape of underage white girls, but the establishment failed to see the real “social injustice” which lay just beyond their very noses. It should only be proper that proselytising NGO’s doing “mission work” cannot be challenged by a “Hindu extremist” government to account for their sources of funding and of their activities. The RSS got a dishonourable mention – those same, bad “Hindu extremists”, who saved so many Sikh lives in 1984, but of whom, earlier in the debate, Lord Singh could not recall in even a glimmer of good light.
The White Man’s burden weighs so heavily in the House of Lords.
These masterful performances were followed by a couple of support acts; both of which seemed to derive much pleasure in exposing “Hindu extremism”. A count of the “hits” is tabulated here for readers’ enjoyment:
|Speaker in India: Religious Freedom debate||Reference to Hindus||Comments on the context in which the word “Hindu” was used|
|Lord Singh||8||3 direct references to Hindu extremists, and 5 more unflattering references to Hindus, which in another context, say with reference to Muslims, Jews or Africans could be considered prejudiced and discriminatory|
|Lord (Bishop) Harries||5||4 quotes of “Hindu extremists” and 1 of “Hindu-inflicted violence”|
|Lord Ahmed||4||Phrases used: Hindu nationalist, Hindu propaganda, Hindu groups like VHP, RSS referred to as extremist forces|
The gem in these support gigs was the cruel reference to the shocking desecration of Guru Granth Sahib. Once again, economy with the truth prevailed: Like the nun victim of rape, here too, the same strategy was applied: frame the argument explicitly around “Hindu extremists”, then lob in the crime and let the Hindus be the perpetrators even when they are not. Like so many stories where Hindus are not the perpetrators, the news goes cold, as in the case of the desecration of the Holy Book, it turns out that some Sikhs or possibly ex-Sikh converts to Christianity were arrested .
A Martian visiting Earth would see no distinction between the (Indian) press and the “excellent Library” in the Lords. Parsimony with facts holds sway; probity of leviathan proportions is assumed simply by being nice to each other, “My Lords, I thank the noble Lord…”, is so civilised, so why worry about details?
Why is it not a surprise that the reference to “extremist forces” was voiced by a peer who otherwise would seem to have such a high regard for the British tradition of freedom of speech, that at one time, he advocated that literary merit cannot be praised by state recognition of a knighthood to a writer if a minority might be offended.
It can be argued that the Lords are right to be critical and to debate, however flawed their “data may be”, about intolerance, bigotry and extremism wherever and in whatever forms they exist. So, one might expect to find similar strident language in matters to do with religious intolerance, the threats of islamist radicalisation, Britain’s image in the world in regards to how we treat minorities, how the criminal and legal processes deal with race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, segregation, and the challenges of a civic, multi-cultural society.
It is therefore revealing that by merely scratching the surface of the Hansard records of the House of Lords debates, one finds the following:
|Debate||References to Extremism||Comments|
|India: Freedom of Religion, 17 March 2016 ||14||14 references to Hindu extremists/violence/fringe/ propaganda/hardline/|
|Islam, 19 Nov 2013 ||5||No conflation of any religion with the word “extremism” but one reference to Hindu nationalists in a debate on Islam,|
|Pakistan: Religious Violence, 22 May 2013 ||4||1 reference to Sunni extremists
The other three uses of “extremist” were without any religious conflation
|Islam: Extremism, 03 February 2016 ||7||None of these were directly conjoined with any religion in particular and when any reference to religion was made it was in the form of “extremist interpretation of….”|
The data speaks for itself:
- Hinduism and Hindus are singled out as the ONE religious group that can be openly criticised, maligned and discriminated in such a blatant fashion. The British Parliament is either unable or unwilling to defend British Hindus and their basic rights in the face of a destructive onslaught from evangelists, and their “liberal” and other associated allies.
- In Lords debates, on not even one occasion has a religious group other than Hindu been suffixed with word “extremist” or its derivatives – NOT even when discussing the plight of minorities in Pakistan or the numerous debates on what is ostensibly referred to as religious radicalisation. The discourse in the House does not mirror that in the press, evidently.
- In fact, the perversity could not be more blatant: A debate on Islam actually threw up one reference to Hindu nationalists.
- In relation to Islam, references to radicalisation and social issues are made with sensitivity and undue consideration. Muslims, quite rightly, are not demonised as a community, and taking note of this, phrases like “extremist interpretation of….” are used, and even then, sparingly.
- Because it is difficult to find clear instances of “extremist interpretations of Hinduism” (no, the Manu Smriti is NOT a religious text), those railed against Hindus just come out with “Hindu extremism” because it saves analysis; this discrimination against Hindus is the one remaining taboo that is not legislated against, it would seem. Hindus are beyond the pale.
- Curiously, there is only one “Islamic fundamentalist” reference in Hansard. Lord Singh used this phrase in the debate on the Same Sex marriage bill in reference to how Sikhs sometimes get mistaken for Muslims by some people. 
- During a debate on Christians in the Middle East , Lord Parekh, apparently an expert on “Hindu Fundamentalism” and “Hindu fundamentalists” cited this three times. In an otherwise sound argument on the power of democracy, he could not resist suggesting that it is (western style) democracy that moderates Hindu culture rather than the truth which is that Hindu culture, with its innate diversity, is what actually preserves Indian democracy in the most diverse nation on the planet. Some just cannot see the evidence even when it is so stark.
- Talking of evidence, just the debate on Religious violence in Pakistan makes it clear that in the Lords, the Hindus of Pakistan and Bangladesh get short shrift. Their numbers have dwindled so alarmingly as to be virtually extinct in Pakistan and are on the verge in Bangladesh. But no one murmurs its causes, or calls it out, much less name it what it so patently is: a systematic and sustained act of cultural and religious genocide.
- Other non-accusatory, neutral references to Hindus are mostly from practicing Hindus and generally very temperate and almost apologetic in their nature. They desist from defending Hinduism, much less speak about it or share any of its rich philosophy and teachings with others in the Chamber. Diwali celebration with samosa and chai at the House seems to be the sum of it.
It is indeed true that those in the Lords who are the most vocal about Hinduism and Hindu identity, project the impression that Hindus cannot be devout, for they worship false god(s); ipso facto, they are extremists.
It is indeed true that the House of Lords views Religious Freedom and Human Rights as important ideals to promote – EXCEPT in the case when Hindus are victims and MOSTLY in the case of “others” when Hindus are a majority and can be conveniently categorised as aggressors.
Let us end where we began: The Not the Nine o’clock News sketch . To get entry into special school or club, one has to tell a good story about the “parrot”. Thereafter, all that matters is semantics, the same story applies whether it is to do with Christians in the Middle East or the price of bread. The debate is not about substance, it is about niceties like haggling over what is correct, “…who I lived with” or “with whom I lived”.
For Hindus, it does not matter what the question is when it is anything to do with Hindus. The answer is always the same. Only, the parrot is not just in the answer; the parrot parrots the answer that was passed on from parrot to parrot.
As a good friend said, “one self righteous, pompous liberal (parrot) at a time please!” 
Or, alternatively, there are some courageous, sane voices who might take up wise counsel such as offered by Professor Shankar Sharan, an educationalist, that advocate holistic ways of looking at rights and responsibilities where the selfish motive of “rights of man” does not trump “dhrama of humanity” . There is room for all: a pious Hindu who seeks respect and preservation of her/his traditions and culture should not be assumed to be an extremist.
For those who are up to it, there are better ways to build a better tomorrow than to consistently “other” the Hindu tribe.
Those that continue to single out Indic civilisation with their vendetta beware: the complexity and diversity of India’s present is the stark reality of the world’s future. Therefore, to seek to recast India into a monotheistic, monolithic edifice; a model that western civilization is giving up, at a time when it is only just beginning to also see the very same complexity and diversity emerge in its own midst but with few ideas on how to deal with it, would be to destroy the kernel of humanity’s collective future.
Now, how about starting with something small: Give Hindus their inalienable rights as citizens, sweep the dross away and go for some REAL reform and diversity in the Lords?
- The Parrot Essay Sketch, Not The Nine ‘O clock News, starring Mel Smith and Rowan Atkinson, see YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTv5ckMe_2M
- Aakar Patel, “12 Step Guide to be a Guru”, in the Mumbai Mirror, 1 April 2016, see http://www.mumbaimirror.com/columns/columnists/aakar-patel/12-step-guide-to-be-a-guru/articleshow/51638651.cms
- Hansard – House of Lords Debate on “India: Freedom of Religion”, 17 March 2016, see https://hansard.digiminster.com/Lords/2016-03-17/debates/1603171000506/IndiaFreedomOfReligion It is remarkable that in his address, Lord Singh complimented the House Library on the voluminous information of acts of “Hindu Extremism” that it has compiled as briefing notes for the delectation of their lordships. One is bound to question whether this “excellent” library has any information on the acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Kashmiri Hindus, or the causes and consequences of the Muzaffarnagar and Mlada riots, or the systematic political and religiously motivated murder of hundreds of Hindus in West Bengal and Kerala by Naxals, Communists and other left parties.
- Mayuresh Didolkar, “The Arrogance of the USCIRF”, IndiaFacts website, 14 March 2016, see http://indiafacts.org/the-arrogance-of-the-uscirf/
- New York Times, “A Conversation With Katrina Lantos Swett, on Religious Freedom in India”, 13 August 2013, see http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/13/a-conversation-with-u-s-c-i-r-f-vice-chairwoman-katrina-lantos-swett/?_r=1&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=World&action=keypress®ion=FixedLeft&pgtype=Blogs
- Letter published in the Times 5th March 2015 jointly by Sikh and Hindu organizations on “Sexual Grooming and the Culture of Denial”, http://nsouk.co.uk/sexual-grooming-and-the-culture-of-denial/ Sexual grooming and entrapment of Sikh and Hindu girls by mostly Muslim men is a very grave issue that has been manifest in the UK for at least 25 years. The absolutely excellent work by Sikh Awareness Society which cuts across inter-faith, under the leadership of the inspirational and venerable Sardar Mohan Singh Khalsa, is a revolutionary and practical example of Sewa in practice. Lord Singh is a signatory to this letter and well knows the power of collaboration between Dharmic “sister-faiths”.
- Even Muslim kings prohibited cow Slaughter, see Professor Makarand Paranjape in his response to Maitryee Shukla on Swarajya Magazine website at http://swarajyamag.com/politics/prof-makarand-paranjape-responds-to-maitreyee-shuklas-open-letter : “Care to explain why a brand new entrant into India’s body politic and a migrant to boot, felt the need to circumscribe his own dietary choices if that was not the view held by the vast majority of his subjects, given that all the levers of the state were with him? Is it your case that the upper castes were numerically dominant? If so aren’t we describing an egalitarian utopia, where most were privileged, with very few have nots? Another reading is that the lower castes too were not beef eating. Lets not allow our biases and phobias stop us from ascribing credit where due, even if the recipients of the credit are them nasty Yindoos!”
- There is voluminous material on the historicity of reverence for the cow in India (as in many other societies). The peoples of all Indic faith traditions as a general rule do not eat beef. This tradition persists in many parts of India with several states having long established laws against this practice. See for example the Wikipedia entry on cow slaughter at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_slaughter_in_India .
- Emily Gosden, Daily Telegraph, 3 April 2016, “Student accused of violating university ‘safe space’ by raising her hand” – where Edinburgh student Imogen Wilson was accused of “violating university safe space”, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/03/student-accused-of-violating-university-safe-space-by-raising-he/
- The Sun, “Man who challenged Muslim woman in Croydon and asked her to ‘explain Brussels’ arrested for racial hatred” http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/7022509/Fury-as-man-challenges-Muslim-woman-and-told-her-to-explain-Brussels.html
- Douglas Murray, “The questions nobody wants to ask about Asad Shah’s murder”, The Spectator, http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/03/the-questions-nobody-wants-to-ask-about-asad-shahs-murder-2/
- It is amazing how Human Rights activists like to classify and categorise people. It could be a desire to sound scientific? See the biological definition of taxonomy and the Linnean system at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxonomy_(biology)
- BBC Website, “Indian nun rape case: Police make more arrests”, 1 April 2015, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-32143051
- Maria Wirth, “Christians are not under attack in India”, March 2015, see https://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/christians-are-not-under-attack-in-india/
- BBC Website “Oxfordshire grooming victims may have totalled 373 children” This reported that between 1999-2016, as many as 373 children, mostly white working class girls were systematically groomed and abused for sex by gangs of mostly Muslim men http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-31643791 Richard Harries was Bishop of Oxford from 1987 to 2006.
- Explained: The Guru Granth Sahib serial desecrations that have sparked protests across Punjab in the First Post F.India website, 21 October 2015, see http://www.firstpost.com/politics/explained-the-guru-granth-sahib-serial-desecrations-that-have-sparked-protests-across-punjab-2477010.html
- The Guardian, “UK ‘deeply concerned’ over Rushdie comment”, 19 June 2007, where it was reported that Lord Ahmed had said that “”It’s hypocrisy by Tony Blair who two weeks ago was talking about building bridges to mainstream Muslims, and then he’s honouring a man who has insulted the British public and been divisive in community relations.” See http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/jun/19/books.pakistan Juxtapose this with his quote from the India: Religious Freedom debate in the Lords – “Do we confront this overt threat to tens of millions Christians, Muslims and Sikhs in India, or do we appease these extremist forces in the name of trade and profit?”To this I would comment: One is socially divisive and injurious to community relations, the other is not, but both come from the same source. Why double standards? See https://hansard.digiminster.com/Lords/2016-03-17/debates/1603171000506/IndiaFreedomOfReligion
- Hansard – House of Lords Debate on Islam, 19 Nov 2013 https://hansard.digiminster.com/Lords/2013-11-19/debates/13111956000156/Islam
- Hansard – House of Lords Debate on Pakistan: Religious Violence, 22 May 2013 https://hansard.digiminster.com/Lords/2013-05-22/debates/13052252000384/PakistanReligiousViolence
- Hansard – House of Lords Debate on Islamic Extremism, 3 February 2016, https://hansard.digiminster.com/Lords/2016-02-03/debates/16020358000420/IslamExtremism
- Hansard – House of Lords Debate on Same Sex marriage Bill and Lord Singh’s contribution https://hansard.digiminster.com/Lords/2013-06-17/debates/13061712000472/Marriage(SameSexCouples)Bill
- Hansard – House of Lords Debate on Christians in the Middle East, see in particular Lord Parekh’s contribution https://hansard.digiminster.com/Lords/2011-12-09/debates/11120956000205/ChristiansInTheMiddleEast
- Mayuresh – Mayur, I am grateful to, you, my author friend for coming up with this apt wisecrack.
- Shankar Sharan, “Some problems of Human Rights Education”, Dept of Education in Social Sciences and Humanities, NCERT, New Delhi 110016
Jay Jina is a UK-based third generation NRI. After a business career, most recently as a European IT Director with a multinational, Jay is now an independent consultant and a part time university academic in Technology Management, Business and Mathematics. Jay’s interests span history, current affairs, the Indian Diaspora and the history and politics of Science.