Ramesh Kallidai

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Ramesh Kallidai is the former Secretary General of the Hindu Forum of Britain which is the largest umbrella body representing British Hindus. Kallidai was first Secretary General of the organisation and has continued in this role while introducing different projects and raising the profile of the community in Great Britain. His initiative in partnership with the Runnymede Trust called Connecting British Hindus highlighted the question of the identity of British Hindus. The report claimed that over 80% of Hindus in Britain did not want to be called Asians but Hindus or Indian.

In 2006, Kallidai was appointed as a Commissioner of Integration and Cohesion [1] by Ruth Kelly the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to report on issues surrounding segregation and community cohesion. He advises many Government bodies including the London Criminal Justice Board, the Race Hate Crime Forum, the Metropolitan Police Diversity Forum, the Faith Communities Consultative Council, the London 2012 Forum and other bodies.

His comments are carried by British media and Indian broadsheets regularly and he has been quoted on issues ranging from the 7 July 2005 London bombings and hate crime to the death of the Pope and the marriage of the Prince of Wales.

He has submitted written and oral evidence to the House of Commons and the House of Lords Select Committees on various matters including the Religious Hatred bills [2] and Terrorism and Community Relations.[3]

Many British Hindus believe that Kallidai has created a platform that has given shape to the political voice of Hindus in the UK for the first time. Gordon Brown, then Prime Minister, and David Cameron, then Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, paid glowing tributes to him and his organisation at the Diwali reception he had organised at the House of Commons.[when?] A week later Cameron was attending a dinner as his guest at a Hindu temple to meet 300 stakeholders from the Hindu community. Ramesh's conferring of a Hindu name - Govardhan Brown - on the British Prime Minister made world headlines in November 2007.

Personal life[edit]

Kallidai was born in Tamil Nadu in India, where he grew up in an orthodox Brahmin family, learning the rituals and philosophy of Vedantic Hinduism.

From an early age he was trained to chant Sanskrit mantras and scriptural verses in traditional metres. His first teacher, Sri Rajan Iyengar, a Sri Vaishnava taught him the inner meanings and chanting procedures for various Hindu scriptures like the Vishu Sahasranamam, the Narayaniyam and other Vaishnava books. He also attended many Bala Vihar classes run by the Chinmaya Mission as a child and spent his teen years studying the books of Swami Chinmayananda, notably his version of the Bhagavad-gita.

At the age of 16, he chanced upon a summary edition of the Bhagavata Purana by Kamala Subramaniam, published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. It was a book that changed his life, and he started searching for a traditional master who could impart the inner doctrines of the Bhagavata Purana to him.

The search ended at the age of 18 when he met His Holiness Gopal Krishna Goswami, whom he formally accepted as his Spiritual Master in 1989. Under his guidance, he studied various philosophical treatises and scriptures in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition as taught by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In Mumbai he became the editor of Hare Krishna Today, a newsletter with a circulation of 25,000 people.

In 1993, Kallidai left a job in Air India and migrated to the UK.

Serving British Hindus[edit]

After migrating to the UK, Kallidai immediately played an active role in the campaign to save Bhaktivedanta Manor for public worship. The temple had been threatened with closure by Hertesmere Borrough Council and had led to a campaign of unprecedented scale, uniting Hindus of all denominations in the UK. Kallidai was instrumental in 1994 to set up a youth group called Pandava Sena that had a major role to play in the Bhaktivedanta Manor Campaign. Since then he has been actively involved in serving the Hindu community in the UK. He served on the Executive Committees of various Hindu bodies in the UK including the National Council of Hindu Temples, the Hindu Council UK, Hindu Aid and the Hindu Forum of Britain.

Leading the community agenda[edit]

In his multiple roles as Secretary General of the Hindu Forum of Britain, a Commissioner of Integration and Cohesion appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Independent Advisor to a variety of policy making bodies, Kallidai has successfully led and commissioned the following initiatives in public policy and community engagement on behalf of the Hindu Forum of Britain.

Community consultations on public policy[edit]

Kallidai conducted various consultation exercises, stakeholder workshops, surveys and other activities with the Hindu community, and some with the all the major faith communities in the UK. These include:

  • Commissioner leading on Education on the Commission for Integration and Cohesion
  • Multi-faith response to the introduction of ID Cards - with four workshops across UK
  • Fairness for All - Commission of Equality and Human Rights
  • Strength in Diversity – Home Office Policy on Diversity and Equality
  • Home Office Consultation on Ministers of Religion from Abroad
  • Home Affairs Select Committee on Terrorism and Community Relations
  • House of Lords Select Committee on Religious Discrimination

Capacity building and project development[edit]

He commissioned the following projects on behalf of the Hindu Forum of Britain after identifying capacity gaps in the Hindu community in the UK:

  • Launched the Parliamentary Experience Programme where ten Hindu youth shadowed ten MPs to increase democratic participation amongst young British Hindus
  • Launched a pilot RE Toolkit in the 72 schools of Harrow to encourage standardised resources for teaching Hinduism in schools
  • Started a security training programme for places of worship to meet a demand-led response
  • HFB Disaster Task Force that brought together 50 aid organisations for the Tsunami disaster

Research[edit]

The Connecting British Hindus Research Project that was visualised, conceived and managed by Ramesh on behalf of the Hindu Forum of Britain in partnership with the Runnymede Trust. It involved 10 focus group meetings and 1000 responses to an online survey, resulting in 20 recommendations on Hindu identity and access to public services that are transforming the manner by which local government engages with British Hindus.

Interfaith activity[edit]

Kallidai has worked on various community projects with the Muslim Council of Britain, the Catholic Bishops Conference, Churches Together in England and Wales, the Church of England, Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Office of the Chief Rabbi, the Network of Sikh Organisations, Sikhs in England, National Spiritual Assembly of Baha'is in UK, Network of Buddhist Organisations, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe and the Jain Samaj Europe. He has organised many interfaith events, consultations and events and is an active contributor to the activities of the Interfaith Network of UK, where he had served formerly as an Executive Committee member.

Events and conferences[edit]

These include the Annual Diwali reception at the House of Commons; Interfaith reception for H H Karmapa Lama, a Buddhist leader; Hindu memorial service for the London Bombings at the Victoria Embankment Gardens; the Inter-faith Memorial Service for the Mumbai Bomb Blasts and many others.

Media and publicity[edit]

Kallidai has run various community campaigns and is one of the most quoted community workers in the UK media. He writes profusely for various newspapers and is quoted regularly in ethnic, regional, national and international media, including newspapers, television and radio.

Memberships and positions[edit]

Kallidai is a member of various organisations. Some of his positions are as follows:

  • Commissioner for Integration and Cohesion, reporting to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
  • Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain
  • Vice Chair, Hindu Aid
  • Member, Race Hate Crime Forum, Metropolitan Police
  • Member, Diamond Advisory Group, Metropolitan Police
  • Member, IAG London Criminal Justice Board
  • Executive Member, Religions for Peace (UK)
  • Fellow, Royal Society of the Arts
  • National Working Group, EU Campaign to Combat Discrimination

Publications and papers[edit]

  • *Caste in the UK, a research paper on the situation of caste in a British context providing fresh evidence from surveys and research, 2008
  • Working with a Hindu Ethos, Ramesh authored a guide for Hindu charities in the UK, published by the Hindu Forum of Britain in 2007. This book was launched in the House of Commons by Harriet Herman MP, Leader of the House
  • Oral and written response to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Terrorism and Community Relations, 2005
  • Oral and written response to the House of Lords Select Committee on Religious Discrimination, November 2002
  • Response to 'Fairness for All' White Paper on the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, July 2004
  • Response to 'Strength in Diversity', Home Office White Paper on race equality and community cohesion, July 2004
  • Using the UML Uniformly, City University, September 2000
  • Screaming Hot Bhajiyas - weekly column in the Asian Voice, largest English weekly for Asians in UK
  • Angrezi Matters - fortnightly column in the Hindustan Times, largest circulating newspaper in Delhi, India

References[edit]

  1. ^ DCLG Commission of Integration and Cohesion Statement, 24 Aug, 2006
  2. ^ House of Lords Select Committee Examination of Witnesses, The Stationery Office, 27 Nov 2002
  3. ^ Home Affairs Select Committee Witness Examination, Terrorism and Community Relations, 14 Dec 2004

External links[edit]