Letters: Keep caste politics out of UK law

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 26 July, 2013

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The Hindu community is outraged that it is being accused of caste discrimination in the UK (report 12 July). A vociferous lobby claiming to represent 400,000 so-called low-caste people is claiming that the rest of the Hindus are discriminating against them.

The Hindu population in the UK does not have the economic or political power to discriminate against anyone even if it wanted to. How can 400,000 people be discriminated against by a minority faith?

The proposed law to ban caste discrimination will open a Pandora’s box in which innocent Hindus will be accused of caste discrimination and every institution in the country will have to bring in measures to comply with an entirely useless piece of legislation.

This country has more then sufficient anti-discrimination laws to tackle any injustice. An alliance of evangelical groups, caste activists and left-wing politicians are pushing this agenda and attempting to bring India’s politics to this country. 

Nitin Mehta, Croydon


I am writing following your report (12 July) stating that I was “deliberately scuppering legislation to ban caste discrimination”. This is categorically not the case and nothing in the letter that I sent to the Alliance of Hindu Organisations suggests otherwise.

Parliament made clear during the passage of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill that legislation needs to be implemented to make caste discrimination unlawful. However, there is strong agreement from both sides that this is an extremely sensitive and complex issue, and that a comprehensive consultation needs to take place before new legislation can be introduced. I am committed to taking that work forward. I have never suggested, or implied, that the Government will not implement the duty and there is certainly no question of the outcome of the consultation being prejudged.

The consultation will focus purely on how we implement the duty, not whether it is implemented. It is vital that we get that right and that requires consultation with all parties. To that end, it is entirely appropriate that I discuss the issue with a wide range of groups and encourage everyone to participate in the consultation.

As I made clear in my letter to the Alliance of Hindu Organisations, prejudice and discrimination in any form is unacceptable in modern society – this is as true for caste as it is for race, sex or disability for example – and I remain fully committed to eradicating it.

Helen Grant MP, Women and Equalities Minister, London SW1


These dirty tricks put press’s antics in the shade

The Independent’s outstanding public-interest investigative journalism exposing the massive scandal of illicit blue-chip phone hacking and blagging now deserves the support of the rest of the media, the public and politicians (25 July).

For the press it presents another opportunity to highlight to the public that the activities of a small minority of newspapers in practising such “dark arts” are dwarfed by those of banks, insurance companies, law firms, credit agencies, mega-wealthy individuals and others. The simple fact that it has taken a doggedly determined newspaper to drag a 12-year-long “official” secret screaming into the light should serve as a timely danger signal to those inclined to swallow wholesale the Leveson/Hacked Off lobby’s recommendations for press regulation.

In the case of the politicians, it is now their duty to demand  full answers over why  the Serious Organised Crime Agency has held details of this massive corruption scandal for years and refused to tackle it. Keith Vaz’s Home Affairs Select Committee can set the ball rolling by rejecting Soca’s offer to share their dossier on condition it is kept secret. And if Soca refuses to co-operate unconditionally then the Vaz committee must be prepared to hold the crime agency in contempt of Parliament.

A further important irony should not be lost either; the viability of most British national and local newspapers is far more precarious than that of the blue-chip companies embroiled in this industrial-scale abuse of power with its massive breaches of privacy and the cynical cover-up surrounding it.

There is now a compelling case for a new judicial public inquiry to be ordered; but this time with a different judge at the helm and without the press in the dock.

Paul Connew, St Albans, Hertfordshire


Perfect welcome for royal baby

Contrary to the views of John Williams (letters, 25 July), I would like to congratulate The Independent for its coverage of the royal-baby arrival, although it was a little excessive. The only information we really needed was that the baby was born, and maybe its name. Nothing else required. This restraint is the reason many readers enjoy your newspaper. Please don’t change.

Jeremy Bacon, Woodford Green,  Essex


I cannot agree with John Williams; as an uncommitted lukewarm monarchist, I was excited by the idea of a republican hidden in Bucklebury; and I continued to get The Independent this week, as a relief from the breathless excitement of TV news. Bucklebury may be “outside the M25, where civilised England comes to an end”, but I bet they’ve all heard of Oprah Winfrey.

John Dakin, Dunstable, Bedfordshire


Congratulations on gritting your teeth and plucking up the courage to give a tiny mention of the royal birth on surely the most begrudgingly miserable front page of any national newspaper. I’m surprised you didn’t outline the announcement in black! Are the majority of your readers really the bunch of killjoy wet-blankets implied by your published letters?

Austen Moore, Walsall


Grace Dent (23 July) takes half a page on the birth to tell us to pay less attention to the Cambridges. Surely half a page too much?

Terry Bishop, Deal, Kent


I take it that by naming the new Royal baby George after the current Chancellor, the Royal Family are also sending a clear message about their view on paying taxes on their wealth as well.

Keith Flett, London N17


I imagine they did not consult the Beckhams.

John J Cameron, Great Missenden, Hertfordshire


Good may come of Tsarnaev photo 

I don’t understand all the concern over the photograph of Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine (report, 18 July). The text beside it says: “How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam, and became a monster”. The cover photograph of Tsarnaev, apparently taken in his earlier, “normal” days, is therefore perfectly appropriate to the article.  

I hope that people at checkout stands everywhere in America see that picture instead of a mugshot or whatever other photograph Rolling Stone could have used, and think to themselves: “I want to read this. He looks like he could have been my classmate/son/nephew.” It might lead to the early detection of another person who is on a downward spiral towards becoming a monster, and might help prevent another atrocity such as what happened in Boston.  

Using a mugshot, or a photograph of the bombing scene would defeat the point of the article, which is to provide insight into Tsarnaev before he became a monster.

Christian Haerle, London E11


Where are all the women?

While I was delighted to find comment in your paper regarding the use of men-only clubs for national sporting venues (18 July), I was troubled to note that the paper the following day contained approximately 125 photos of men and 25 of women. I realise this is a small sample, but it is unutterably depressing that in the 21st century, women still struggle to find balanced coverage of their own gender in national papers. 

I suppose I should be grateful that only two related directly to our sexuality (Christine Keeler) or our ability to be a coat hanger (model) and in only one was the women topless (protester).  

Carrie White, Wretham, Norfolk


When doing nothing is best

Oliver Wright (“Doing something for nothing earns top marks at the school for civil servants”, Inside Whitehall, 23 July) is right: sometimes the best policy may be no policy at all.

“Something must be done” is an organising principle of political discourse. The media demand action from politicians. By acting, politicians can create an illusion of control of events, even when so much is out of their direct influence. The public conspire in this illusion partly because it can feel reassuring that someone is apparently in control. We effect our own infantalisation.

Dr Alex May, Manchester


Formula One’s tax affairs

I have to take issue with your article about Formula One tax avoidance (24 July). You say that HMRC “wins in the end” as “F1 itself employs 5,243 people and spends billions with UK businesses that do pay tax”.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses there are 4.8 million small businesses in the UK which employ 23.9 million people. Do you think that these businesses should also stop paying corporation tax as they employ people and use suppliers?

Matthew Walker, London N8


Cricket song

With a love of cricket song, I purchased 500 African field crickets (Gryllus bimaculatus) from a reptile-food supplier and released them into my garden. For the past two nights we and our neighbours have been enjoying their delightful chirping.

This species is unlikely to naturalise because of our cold winters, and is widely available and cheap on the internet. Might I through your columns heartily recommend them as a wonderful complement to our hot summer.

Daniel Emlyn-Jones, Oxford


‘English’, really?

It’s all well and good saying that a Englishman won the Tour de France and now two Tests (“Va va Froome: cyclist Chris Froome and England’s cricketers cruise to success”, 22 July). But the truth is that a Kenyan won the Tour de France and the Tests were won with the help of South Africans, so should you be patting yourselves on the back when you use mercenaries?

Robert Pallister, Punchbowl, NSW, Australia