Letter: Preservation of a democratic and secular India

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The Independent Online
Sir: The British Asian community is far too sophisticated and experienced to allow the events at Ayodhya to affect their way of life here.

The attacks on places of worship in the Midlands and the North (report, 9 December) must be condemned. In our inner-city areas over the past 20 years, community leaders and their organisations have struggled financially and physically to ensure that places of worship to serve the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities are built and maintained. There is therefore a great understanding between all the religious groups to ensure that these buildings are protected.

The cost of repair and rebuilding is not just financial. It is also about ensuring that the links that have been created over the past two decades are developed.

There is, of course, enormous interest in events in India and the rest of the sub-continent. That interest is one of observing, not participating. A generation has now passed since Enoch Powell's prediction that black and Asian communities would not be integrated into Britain. They have. Mr Powell's predictions have been proved hopelessly wrong. But the community wants to sustain and maintain links with India: it is natural and culturally acceptable to do so.

James Manor's assessment ('Storm in an Indian teacup', 9 December) which some may dismiss as being wildly optimistic will, I believe, turn out to be correct. Narasimha Rao's government must survive. A period of constitutional uncertainty with fresh elections or a struggle for the leadership of the Congress Party would be disastrous.

After Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, Mr Rao was chosen as the 'stop gap' prime minister, but his economic reforms and his reputation as an honest and experienced power broker was a welcome change from the glamour of the Gandhis. The Indian press has been very vocal in support of the secular state. India cannot afford to spend the next five years dealing with Ayodhya as it spent five years dealing with the Bofors scandal.

The plea from the community here is for a stable secular India free from violence and prejudice.

Yours sincerely,


MP for Leicester East (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

9 December