On 18 January 2017 BBC Asian Network’s host of the Big Debate, Nomia Iqbal, led a live debate on the caste legislation in the UK. Satpal Muman, Chair of CasteWatch UK and Satish Sharma, from the National Council of Hindu Temples, were in the studio and DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma called in.
On 2 September 2016 the UK government announced it would conduct a public consultation on “the issue of caste and the Equality Act 2010”. Although no timetable or conditions of the consultation were announced yet, opposing groups started discussing caste-based discrimination in the UK and the potential impact, the proposed legislation outlawing caste discrimination, might have on the affected communities.
The BBC Asian Network debate started with an audio documentary prepared by Vishva Samani, which included two cases of caste-based discrimination in the UK, as well as views that caste did not play any role in the lives of people in the UK. It was followed by a live discussion in the studio, on a phone and through social media.
To the arguments that caste legislation would divide communities and fuel caste-based discrimination in the UK Satpal Muman answered: “We are not talking about those to whom caste is not important we are talking about those to whom caste is important. Look at the case of racial discrimination. Does the law against racial discrimination fuel more racism – I don’t think so. It allows victims of racism find remedy and protection”.
In response to Satish Sharma’s assertion that the legislation was an attack on Hinduism; DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma, said: ‘the campaign to see the caste discrimination law introduced does not target any religion. It is not anti-Hindu – it is a campaign for human rights and equality’.
It seems that whilst the government is yet to announce the consultation’s timetable communities are eager to engage in discussions on the caste legislation.
The full programme is available here. The documentary followed by the live discussion starts at 2:00 hours into the recording.