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.[1] Kallidai was the first Secretary General of the organisation. He has also served as a Commissioner of Integration and Cohesion to the British Government, appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.[2] He has acted as a formal advisor to the British Government on various platforms such as the London Criminal Justice Board, the Race Hate Crime Forum.[3] and the Diamond Advisory Group of the Metropolitan Police. He has also presented evidence to select committees at the House of Commons and House of Lords on issues such as religious discrimination and anti-terrorism, and was a Cultural Ambassador to the London 2012 Olympics.

John Zavos, a Senior Lecturer in South Asian Studies in the University of Manchester says that the organisation that Ramesh Kallidai set up with the help of other Hindu leaders, "...has in recent years been the most active organization in projecting itself as the representative of Britain’s Hindu community, with several prominent roles on government initiatives such as the Commission on Integration and Cohesion.".[4]

In this role he introduced different projects and raised 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 Former Secretary of State for Communities, Ruth Kelly, praised the report commissioned by Ramesh Kallidai as one that raised "important issues" between Hindu communities and the government.[5]

As a spokesperson for the Hindu community his comments were 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 [6] and Terrorism and Community Relations.[7]

Several British Prime Ministers including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and David Cameron, have been guests of his annual Diwali reception at the House of Commons organised by the Hindu Forum of Britain. Ramesh's conferring of a Hindu name - Govardhan Brown - on the British Prime Minister made world headlines in November 2007.[8]

In 2007 an investigation in the Evening Standard called Kallidai "the fundamentalist father" and stated that many of his claims of Muslim men "forcibly" converting "hundreds" of Hindu girls were based on no evidence. It also cited his defense of more controversial organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, cited by Human Rights Watch as being responsible for thousands of deaths in Gujarat, India, in 2003.

In response the Hindu Forum of Britain clarified that the Evening Standard had not given them more than a few hours to respond despite requests for adequate time, and said that the statements in the Evening Standard were wrongly attributed to him without verifying the truth with them. The HFB said that, "While having meetings around the country, officers of the HFB have observed a high level of resentment from leaders of the Hindu communities about perceived aggressive conversion techniques. We have maintained that the resentment level is factual, and detrimental to community relations, but that we do not know the scope and extent of the problem.Therefore, during our discussions with the Police and others we have requested a formal study to understand the extent of the problem, and either bust myths to reassure the community if the problem is not real, or to deal with it if it is. When explaining to the reporter Mr Kallidai and our media spokesperson also referred to a news story that appeared in Luton, several years ago, about a flyer that had been produced encouraging the conversion of Sikhs. Even though these comments were not from Mr Kallidai, several of these were attributed to him." [9]

Personal life[edit]

Kallidai was born in Tamil Nadu in India. From 1977 t0 1982, 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 was a student of the Bala Vihar classes run by the Chinmaya Mission.

In 1989, he was initiated into the order of Gaudiya Vaishnavism by His Holiness Gopal Krishna Goswami, a disciple of A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In 1990, 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.

Involvement in British Hindu organisations[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.

Community agenda[edit]

Kallidai has advised the British Government on several public policy matters by drawing evidence from community consultation exercises on issues ranging from diversity, equality, discrmination and human rights to anti-terrorism and crime.

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. ^ [1], 11 Apr 2015, Report in the Sunday Guardian referring to HFB as the largest and fastest growing Hindu organisation in the UK
  2. ^ [2], 25 Aug 2006, The Information Daily.com
  3. ^ [3], Website Archives, The Metropolitan Police Authority
  4. ^ [4], 20 Aug 2013, Representing British Hindus
  5. ^ [5], 11 Jul 2006, 'Racism debate excludes Hindus, BBC
  6. ^ House of Lords Select Committee Examination of Witnesses, The Stationery Office, 27 Nov 2002
  7. ^ Home Affairs Select Committee Witness Examination, Terrorism and Community Relations, 14 Dec 2004
  8. ^ [6], The Times of India, 16 Nov 2007.
  9. ^ [7], Red Hot Curry.com, June 2007.

External links[edit]