New British Gujarati parliamentary group faces diaspora objections
London: A number of Indian diaspora organisations in the UK have issued letters objecting to the creation of a new cross-party parliamentary group for British Gujaratis, warning that the move could be “divisive”.
The British Gujaratis All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was registered as a new body with the stated purpose “to ensure that the economic, health, social and cultural needs of the British Gujarati community are reflected in Parliament, with a particular emphasis, on health, education, and elderly care”.
PGs, which have no official status within the British Parliament, are informal cross-party groups formed by members of Parliament (MPs) and House of Lords peers who share a common interest in a particular policy area, region or country.
“We see this move as divisive and against the interests of the British Indian community,” reads a letter from the Friends of India Society International (FISI) UK issued last week to the office-bearers of the new group.
“We fail to see any concrete reasons for its creation as the concerns raised are not separate from those of the British Indian community and hence the same can be addressed through APPG for British Hindus and APPG for India,” it notes.
It warns that the move to create the new group is “an attack on the unity of the British Indian community and also on India”.
“Such disharmonious and mala-fide attempts creating strife within the wider Hindu/Indian community needs to be discouraged,” it adds.
Similar sentiments have been expressed in a series of letters issued by groups such as the Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB), British Sikh Association and the National Association of Patidar Samaj – which represents the British Gujarati community.
“Any organisation that divides a community instead of uniting it has already defeated the object,” said Lord Rami Ranger, Chair of the British Sikh Association.
“There are APPGs of Hindus and India, unless of course we will have an APPG on Brahmins and Lohanas too,” he questioned.
“From our assessment, it has become clear that the vast majority of Hindu/ Gujarati/Indian organisations have not been consulted. Had this basic first step taken place then it would have become abundantly clear that the said APPG Gujarati commanded no confidence and is rejected by Gujaratis and the Indian diaspora in general,” notes a letter issued by HFB President Trupti Patel.
The new British Gujaratis APPG, which is to be formally launched in the Houses of Parliament complex in London next week, is made up of a group of six cross-party MPs and peers including Opposition Labour’s Navendu Mishra and Virendra Sharma; Bob Blackman and Shailesh Vara from the Tories; and Lord Navnit Dholakia from the Liberal Democrats.
Labour MP Gareth Thomas, who represents the north-west London constituency of Harrow West with a strong Gujarati diaspora presence, is the chair of the group. He claims that there has been “considerable interest and support” for the British Gujaratis APPG so far and that he would reach out to the groups with concerns to address their questions.
“There are an estimated 800,000 British Gujaratis; mostly concentrated in metropolitan areas like Greater London, Midlands, Lancashire & Yorkshire,” he tweeted last month, announcing the creation of the new APPG.
“I hope the APPG will be able to celebrate the vision and ambition of British Gujaratis and address some of the remaining challenges they face in for example healthcare and in access to good quality care of the elderly. I hope too that the APPG will be able to engage on issues in education, well-being, bilateral trade with the State of Gujarat and economic development here in the UK,” he said.