A bad day for Kelly, it's Kallidai
The recently formed British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD) have issued a public statement expressing deep concern "after it emerged in the media that the Commission on Integration and Cohesion (CIC) set up by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has members who have strong links with Hindu fundamentalist and extremist organisations.
BMSD says it is strongly against all forms of religious extremism and is worried to find that one of the CIC’s commissioners, Ramesh Kallidai is linked to Hindu extremist organisations such as Vishva Hindu Prasad (VHP) and is the Secretary General of its British partner organisation British Hindu Forum (BHF). He is reported to have been a speaker at many of their events as well as organisations such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) whose leadership draws inspiration from the treatment of Jews at the hands of Hitler, aspires to purge India of all Muslims in a similar fashion and has offensive and discriminatory views towards Muslims in other parts of the world.
The association of Mr Kallidai to Hindu fundamentalist and extremist organisations and the support offered by British government ministers and officials to them is extremely worrying for not just for BMSD but also to other peace loving moderate organisations and members of the public.
Dr Shaaz Mahboob of BMSD said, “working with groups coming from fundamentalist root is counterproductive. Instead of creating cohesion in the society they can only polarize the society even further. The Government should seriously reconsider its policy ”.
The Muslim democrats' concern, likely to be echoed by others, comes after the publication of this article below in the London Evening Standard yesterday:
Concerns grow over an alleged ‘extremist’ Hindu organisation feted by ministers
ONE OF the key members of a Government taskforce charged with tackling“extremist ideologies” and religious segregation has close associations with violent extremists — and recently praised a man who endorsed Hitler’streatment of the Jews. Ruth Kelly’s Commission on Integration and Cohesion will this week deliver its landmark report into how Britain can foster “inter-community harmony.”
But a Standard investigation reveals that one of the commission’s own members, Ramesh Kallidai, has clear links to violent Hindu fundamentalists accused of “direct responsibility” for the slaughter of thousands of Muslims. In Britain, Mr Kallidai has accused British Muslims of “aggressively”converting “hundreds” of British Hindu girls to Islam through intimidation and beatings. However, police forces contacted by the Standard say they have no knowledge of a single such case. The Standard has learned that around half- a- dozen other members of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion held a late-night meeting in a bar to discuss their concerns about Mr Kallidai.
At least one member, and possibly more, approached Mark Carroll, a senior official in Ms Kelly’s department,to raise concerns about Mr Kallidai’s presence on the commission. No action was taken.“The concerns were about his links with Hindu fundamentalism and exactly how much he stands by some of the things he has said,” said one figure close to the Commission.
Mr Kallidai is secretary-general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, which claims to be the leading representative body for the country’s 600,000 Hindus. However, his appointment to the commission has horrified some BritishHindus.Lord Desai, the Labour peer, said: “White politicians look at religion very uncritically — they say we must respect all cultures, all faiths. But these guys have no respect for other faiths.”
Chetan Bhatt, professor of politics at Goldsmith’s College, London said: “MrKallidai has chosen to associate with organisations that represent in India what the BNP represents here.”The main such organisation is a Hindu fundamentalist group known as the Vishwa Hindu Prasad (VHP.) The Hindu Forum of Britain and the VHP’s British branch have sent out several joint press releases and have organised anumber of joint events — including two meetings with the Commission on Integration and Cohesion in February and March and a launch of the so-called“Hindu Charter” at the House of Commons. Testifying to MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2004, Mr Kallidai defended the VHP, saying: “We would deny it is an association of Hindu extremists ... It is a peaceful organisation.”
In fact, according to Human Rights Watch, the VHP was “directly responsible”for anti-Muslim riots in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002, in which 2,000 Muslims died. During the disturbances, VHP leaflets described Indian Muslims as “saboteurs” and “anti-nationals” who must be cleansed from Indian soil. In 2004, the VHP called for the destruction of a Muslim mosque and in 2005 its international secretary, Praveen Togadia, said Indian Muslims should take blood tests to prove they were not of “Arabian” descent. In 1992, the VHP led calls for the destruction of the Muslim mosque at Ayodyha, which left over 3,000 dead.
On 12 April this year, in Wembley, Mr Kallidai spoke at the British conference of another Hindu fundamentalist organisation, the RSS, a paramilitary group which wants to expel Muslims and Christians from India and turn the country into a Hindu state. According to a report of the event in the RSS’s official newspaper, Mr Kallidai praised the organisation’s “exemplary” ideology and its ex-leader, M.S.Golwalkar. Mr Golwalkar has written and spoken approvingly of Hitler’s treatment of the Jews and said it was a model India could learn from.
Contacted by the Standard yesterday, Mr Kallidai refused to deny praising Golwalkar and the RSS. In the UK, the Hindu Forum of Britain has led a number of “cultural campaigns” to protest at what it calls “insults” to Hinduism. Mr Kallidai’s most recent campaign is to save a sacred bull,Shambo, kept at a Welsh Hindu temple but due to be slaughtered after testing positive for TB. Last year, the HFB campaigned against an exhibition of pictures in London byIndia’s greatest living artist, M.F.Husain, a Muslim. The exhibition was cancelled on security grounds after three men entered the gallery and vandalised the pictures. There is no suggestion the HFB or Mr Kallidai wereinvolved.
In 2005, Mr Kallidai got the Royal Mail to withdraw one of its Christmas stamps from open sale, claiming it was insulting to Hindus. In fact the stamp, depicting the baby Jesus and Mary with a Hindu mark on her face, is a reproduction of a famous Indian painting owned by Hindu nationalist hero Nana Phadnavis. The picture has been a much-loved attraction in the Mumbai municipal museum for years.
“This is the absolute textbook religious extremist agenda,” said one expert who has advised the Commission on Integration and Cohesion. “You whip up the‘base’ with flimsy allegations that play to people’s emotions. The forced conversion slur, in particular, is an exact copy of an allegation that has been made by Hindu extremists in India.”Despite the Hindu Forum of Britain’s links to extremism, the group has been supported by some British officials. According to its website, Tony Blair has spoken of the HFB’s “success at promoting the positive achievements of the Hindu community,” and David Cameron, the Tory leader, has called it a“highly professional and authoritative voice.”
The HFB’s 2006 annual ball was attended by Europe Minister Geoff Hoon andHome Office minister Tony McNulty. Sir Ian Blair, the Met Policecommissioner, attended the HFB conference in February where the allegationsof “Muslim forced conversion” were made. At the gathering, Sir Ian promisedto crack down on the supposed crime and said: “There is a feeling in the Hindu community that we have not given them as much attention as other groups.”
In July 2006 another organisation linked to Mr Kallidai and the HFB, Hindu Aid, was given almost £140,000 of public money by the Department forInternational Development to “educate British Hindus about development issues.”Hindu Aid’s website describes it as a “British charity” dedicated to the relief of suffering. In fact, Hindu Aid is not a registered charity, but a limited company which has claimed exemption from the requirement to file detailed accounts. The limited data on file at Companies House suggests that in 2005/6, the last year before the DFID grant, it had an income of only £2,500, suggesting that its ability to relieve suffering was limited.
Hindu Aid’s website suggests some of its money is channelled via SEWA, allegedly linked to RSS and investigated by the Charity Commission after allegations that some funding had been diverted to back anti-Muslim violence. SEWA was cleared by the Charity Commission, but the commission admitted it had not investigated the alleged RSS links or complicity in thekillings after SEWA said the allegations were untrue. Mr Kallidai is vice-chair and company secretary of Hindu Aid, and every other member of the management board, except one, is also a post-holder in the Hindu Forum of Britain. The two organisations share an office.Mr Kallidai, the HFB and Hindu Aid refused yesterday to respond to questions about their links with extremism. They were also unable to provide examples of their allegations about the “forced conversion” of Hindu girls.
One expert said: “You might wonder how a man like Kallidai could become anofficial ‘integration commissioner’ or how his organisation could achievethe legitimacy within government that it has. What ministers are doing ismaking the same mistake as they made with the Muslim Council of Britain —they are taking those who shout loudest as representatives of their faith.”
REMEMBER WHERE YOU READ IT FIRST?
We gave attention to Mr.Kallidai and his associations in this column on May 19. (Bombing in India, and Backing in Britain). http://randompottins.blogspot.com/2007/05/bombing-in-india-and-backing-in-britain.html
We have also looked at the phoney "forced conversion" story, asking whether the Met(ropolitan Police) was assisting hate propaganda:
I have not had a Random Pottins investigation team at work, just relied on the news and information provided by Awaaz South Asia Watch which maintains a watch on religious extremism and communalist chauvinism on all sides, and I'd guess they also provided the lead and much of the information in Andrew Gilligan's Evening Standard article. Good work, friends, and Mr.Gilligan, and glad it made the mainstream media.
See Awaaz site: