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Government accused of failing British Hindus

Government accused of failing British Hindus

Author: Ruth Gledhill
Publication: The Times
Date: February 5, 2008
URL: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3311192.ece

Britain's Hindu community, known for its peaceable love of sacred cows, for its annual Diwali festival of light and its opposition to conflict, has risen up in unprecedented anger against the Government led by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Leaders of more than 50 organisations representing the country's 800,000 Hindus met on Sunday to draw up a unanimous resolution that "The Labour Government has failed the British Hindu community."

Hindus described as "outraged" by their representatives drew up the resolution in protest at the slaughter of Gangotri, the temple cow put down last year by the RSPCA because she was sick. Hindus administer pain relief to sick animals but prefer to let them die naturally.

Their statement was issued at the ground-breaking ceremony to mark the launch of Europe's largest cow protection farm, built in memory of Gangotri, a Belgian Blue-Jersey cross, at the Hindu temple at Bhaktivedanta Manor near Watford, Hertfordshire.

Hindus are angry because they believe that for years their needs have been neglected by Government, even though they are the country's third largest faith community.

"This Government has no regard for the needs of communities that do not shout," said Sudarshan Bhatia, President of the National Council of Hindu Temples. "Hindu leaders wrote to the Prime Minister 45 days ago, and there is not even an acknowledgement. If this had been some other community, the Government would have rushed to find a solution. Just because Hindus are quiet, we are ignored, isolated and sidelined."

Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: "The impression we get is that those who shout the loudest or cause problems get immediate attention from this Government, while those who work actively to make community cohesion a reality, get ignored. I know that our community is becoming increasingly restless with this Government and wondering whether it is even worth continuing to engage with them."

Hindu leaders travelled from throughout Britain to take part in Sunday's ceremony that included chanting of 10,000 year old Sanskrit prayers, ancient costumes, traditional dances, and devotional singing to the accompaniment of Indian drums and cymbals. It culminated in four simultaneous "yajnas", where priests pouring sanctified offerings of clarified butter into a large sacred fire.

Plans for building the cow protection centre were approved by Hertsmere Borough Council after several planning applications and a public enquiry.

"In Britain, 3.38 million cows and bulls are killed every year. Nearly all young bulls die before they reach their third birthday," said Gauri Dasa, President of Bhaktivedanta Manor and Spiritual Commissioner of the Hindu Forum of Britain. "But at New Gokul, the new cow protection farm, we will demonstrate new ways of ethical, compassionate and sustainable farming."

Bhaktivedanta Manor is one of the largest Hindu temples in Europe and possesses 78 acres of land. In 1973 former Beatle George Harrison purchased the property for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, known as the "Hare Krishnas". It is now a Hindu theological college with 50 trainee priests at any one time. It has become the most important Krishna shrine in Britain, and on the festival occasion of Janmashtami, attracts up to 60,000 visitors.

The centre also includes courses and workshop training facilities, a monastic order, a fully equipped theatre room, and a nursery and primary school.

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