The UK’s opposition Labour Party has sought to defuse a row that has seen British Hindus urged not to vote for them during the December 12 general election.
India’s relations with the Labour Party have greatly deteriorated over the Kashmir issue, with its pro-Pakistani members continuously raking it up in Parliament and other fora.
On September 25, the party at its annual conference passed a resolution on Kashmir, alleging massive human rights violations that “enforced disappearance of civilians, state-endorsed sexual violence of women by armed forces”.
The Labour party also declared that it would stand with the Kashmiri people “fighting against occupation”.
The actions have led to claims the party was “anti-Indian” and “anti-Hindu”, the BBC reported.
But Labour has now distanced itself from the conference motion after criticism from a major Hindu charity.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Labour’s candidate in Slough, recently urged people of Hindu and Sikh faith not to “fall for the divisive tactics of religious hardliners, trying to wedge apart our cohesive community, circulating lies on WhatsApp”.
Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery has stepped in to reassure Hindus that the party was “fully aware of the sensitivities that exist over the situation in Kashmir”.
“We recognise that the language used in the emergency motion has caused offence in some sections of the Indian diaspora, and in India itself,” he said in a statement.
“We are adamant that the deeply felt and genuinely held differences on the issue of Kashmir must not be allowed to divide communities against each other here in the UK.”
However, Umesh Chander Sharma, chairman of Hindu Council UK, told the BBC that most Hindus were “very upset and very angry” about Labour’s position and the charity, which is meant to be politically impartial, was “against” it.
He said his organisation had to “defend the Hindu cause”, adding that some people who usually vote Labour will be voting for the Conservatives because of the issue.
According to official figures, there are more than a million Hindus in Great Britain, while there are more than three million Muslims.
Research by the Runnymede Trust shows that in 2015 and 2017, Labour remained the most popular party among ethnic minority voters (77 per cent of them voted in favour in 2017).