Hindu Forum of Britain
|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
The Hindu Forum of Britain (abbr HFB) is an umbrella organisation of Hindu groups in the United Kingdom. The organization has ties with Hindu nationalist organizations of India and scholars have observed parallels between its discourse and hardline Hindutva.
History and organisation
The Hindu Forum of Britain emerged from a "Hindu Security Conference" held in London in December 2003. The conference was organised in response to an act of vandalism in a Hindu temple in west London, which caused concern among local Hindus. The Forum was launched in response to the perceived ineffectiveness of the Hindu Council UK, an older umbrella organisation of Hindu groups. The Hindu Forum claimed to represent a widely varying number of organisations—at one point, it claimed to represent 420 different groups—but few of these were active participants. According to the Forum, as of 2011, only 36 groups had contributed to funding the umbrella group, and were thus eligible to contest elections to its national executive. It rose rapidly in prominence as the result of participating in several consultations held by the UK government, where its status as an umbrella group made the government more willing to approach it as a group representing Hindu perspectives.
The Hindu Forum expressed opposition in 2006 to an exhibition at London's Asia House Gallery featuring paintings by Indian artist M. F. Hussain. The organisation and its allies planned a protest outside the gallery, but two of the paintings were vandalised the evening before it was scheduled to occur. The Hindu Forum and its allies denied any connection to the vandalism: the gallery cancelled the exhibition citing reasons of security. The organization also tried to mobilise support to protest against the French comedy Les Bronzés 3: Amis Pour La Vie for alleged denigration of idols.
In April 2007, Shambo, a bull belonging to the Hindu temple Skanda Vale, tested positive for bovine tuberculosis. The government ordered the bull slaughtered, a decision which Skanda Vale disputed, and launched a public campaign against. The campaign stated that as cows were sacred to Hinduism, and that killing the bull would thus violate British Hindus' right to practice their religion. The Hindu Forum joined this campaign, at one point stating that its volunteers would form a human chain around the bull if necessary to prevent its killing. The campaign was unsuccessful, and the bull was put to death.
The administration of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped the state of Jammu and Kashmir of its partial autonomy in 2019. The UK Labour Party described the act as a human rights violation. The Hindu forum and several other groups, including the Overseas Friends of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), expressed outrage at the move, and stated that its members would be canvassing support for the Conservative Party.
Following the protest against Hussain's exhibition in 2007, a group of scholars published a statement criticizing the Hindu Forum of Britain. It argued that the Hindu Forum and its allies were using the same methods as Hindu fundamentalist organisations in India, thereby undermining the nation's "constitutional right to freedom of thought and expression". Historian Edward Anderson writes that though the Forum has the image of a mainstream and representative organisation, its methods and discourse resemble that of organisations with an allegiance to hardline Hindutva. This includes efforts to control the use of "Hindu imagery", and efforts to prevent the inclusion of caste in UK anti-discrimination legislation. John Zavos, a scholar of Hindu Nationalism and South Asian diaspora politics, reiterates such concerns.
The Evening Standard reported in 2007 that the then-secretary general of the HFB, Ramesh Kallidai, maintained a close association with Hindu nationalist organisations in India, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Kallidai had spoken at a conference of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh earlier in 2007, praising its founder M. S. Golwalkar, and in 2004 had defended the VHP in British parliament, describing it as a peaceful organisation.
- Zavos, John (2012). "Chapter 6. Hindu Organisation and the Negotiation of Public Space in Contemporary Britain". In John Zavos; et al. (eds.). Public Hinduisms. New Delhi: SAGE Publ. India. ISBN 978-81-321-1696-7.
- Anderson, Edward (2015). "'Neo-Hindutva': the Asia House M. F. Husain campaign and the mainstreaming of Hindu nationalist rhetoric in Britain". Contemporary South Asia. 23 (1): 45–66. doi:10.1080/09584935.2014.1001721.
- "UK Hindus call for French comedy protest". Guardian Unlimited. London. 2006-02-22. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
- Bosma, Ulbe; Lucassen, Jan; Oostindie, Gert (2012). Postcolonial Migrants and Identity Politics: Europe, Russia, Japan and the United States in Comparison. Berghahn Books. ISBN 9780857453280.
- Hatcher, Brian A. (2015). "8". Hinduism in the Modern World. Routledge. ISBN 9781135046309.
- Topping, Alexandra (10 May 2007). "Temple campaigns to save TB-infected bull". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
- John, Tara (November 26, 2019). "Hardline Hindus are pushing the Indian government's agenda on British voters". CNN. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
- "Reinstate Indian art exhibition". The Guardian. 29 May 2006. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
- Zavos, John (2010-02-01). "Situating Hindu nationalism in the UK: Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the development of British Hindu identity". Commonwealth & Comparative Politics. 48 (1): 2–22. doi:10.1080/14662040903444475. ISSN 1466-2043.
- "British Indian official linked to VHP". Hindustan Times. June 13, 2007. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
- "Gordon Brown praises India's culture". The Hindu. 15 November 2007. Archived from the original on 8 November 2008.