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House of Commons turns Saffron
The British Board of Hindu Scholars (BBHS), a unique project set up by the National Council of Hindu Temples UK (NCHTUK), was launched with great expectations at the House of Commons on 3rd July 2014. The event was hosted by none other than our very own Conservative Party MP Alok Sharma who was ably supported by his colleagues Bob Blackman MP (Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Hindus). The event also marked the 35th anniversary of the services the NCHT has given to the community.
The BBHS is a unique project. Its aim is to bring together the leading scholars from various Indic and Vedic traditions that are able to give deliberations and guidance on the range of issues that affect not only our community, but also the wider community. It will allow for the values of Sanathan Dharma to guide society in the 21st Century.
In attendance were scholars, swamis, leading community leaders and people of other faith. To name but a few, Dr Ranjeet Rishi – direct disciple of Swami Karpatriji of Varanasi, Shri Turumella Madhava Kumara Sharma President of Dharmic Faiths, Swami Surya Prabha Privrajika (Minister for Religion) and Dr Jasdev Singh Rai – Director Sikh Human Rights Group.
The list is not exhaustive, but it gives a flavour of the calibre of people in attendance. In the words of Smt Truptiben Patel (VP of Hindu Forum of Britain), ‘As a community we have delivered in most sectors with exemplary success and determination. However it had become increasingly clear that there was a gap in how our dharma was being perceived by the community, society at large, the media and also Parliament’. This is an important point being raised; all too often there has not been a body that can give a coherent reasoned pronouncement based on our Sanathan Dharmic traditions on emerging issues that affect our community and that has let us down.
I was also pleased to see that some of our leading Sampradayic organisations also supporting this venture. A congratulatory note from Prabhu Shri Shrutidharma das (ISKCON) was read out and greatly appreciated by the audience. Historically one of our downfalls has always been the disunity within our own organisations. Leaders often fail to realise and recognise their dharma and in trying to protect their own small self interest, they end up doing great damage to the community as a whole. Therefore it’s always nice to see the leading organisations come together and lend support.
I note from the NCHT Press Release which stated; ‘Noticeable by their absence were the Labour MPS with not a single one attending, even the Hindu ones such as Virendra Sharma MP for Ealing and Seema Malhotra MP’. I asked Satish Sharma the Sec. Gen. of the NCHT if MPs were made aware – assuming that maybe there might have been an oversight. Typical of the detailed planning by Satishji, he confirmed that all MPs on the APPG for Hindus were aware and that therefore there was no reason for a no-show and there were no apologies either. Then it occurred to me. The event was being conducted in Committee Room 14 of the House of Commons, the very same room that was used by Labour MPs to host an anti-modi event on 26th February of this year. It all made sense, the Labour MPs obviously found it too disheartening that their full attempt to undermine PM Modi ji had failed, and now in the very same room the NCHT was launching the BBHS and had turned the colour to saffron. I have to say I am not surprised with the level of disrespect shown by the Labour MPs. Playing politics is one thing, but to dishonour our spiritual swamis, gurus and scholars in this way shows what value they put to our community.
Bob Blackman MP – Chair of the APPG for Hindus in Parliament
Back to the event, Baroness Verma put the sentiments nicely by saying, ‘The BBHS will have an important role to play in the wider debate of respect and honesty within the framework of ancient disciplines and how it responds and reaches out to minds that expect greater evidence and explanations from our texts’. This was underpinned by a message from Swami Vivekananda on behalf of Omkarananda Ashram in Switzerland Austria, India and the UK in stating, ‘May the BBHS serve as a beacon of light and a powerful voice for harmony and collective understanding, in the words of our Earth’s most ancient scripture the Rig-Veda 2, 27, 11 : Neither the right nor left do we distinguish, neither the east nor the west, simple and guided by the wisdom may we attain the light beyond all fear.’
Like all initiatives, they are always well meaning. The hard task starts now in gently, but with purpose and strategic steps to ensure that on key points emerging in the nation and within our community, the BBHS can contribute markedly with its insight. I will follow this development keenly. I wish it well and hope that it will, in time, show by its work to be worthy of our support now and in the future.