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Hindu Group Tells Voters To Back Tories Because They Wouldn't Legislate Against Caste Discrimination

A controversial amendment to the Equality Act would ensure that caste discrimination was outlawed. But the Conservatives think current legislation already makes it illegal.

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A pro-Conservative leaflet has been branded "deeply divisive" for telling Hindu voters to back the party over legislation to ban caste discrimination.

This is astonishing. Tory MP in London playing Hindu divide-and-rule caste politics with leaflets for Hindus. Nasty

This is because, according to a member of the Tories' policy team, the party thinks current legislation already does enough to tackle caste discrimination.

The caste system, developed in India, encourages the separation of people based on occupation, birth, and marriage. The system has been heavily criticised because it creates a hierarchical system based on lower and higher castes.

And now it has emerged that the Dharma Sewa Purvapaksha (DSP), a group the campaigns on behalf of people of Dharmic faiths – Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs – has been giving out leaflets telling voters to back the Tories because the party is against legislation that would ban caste discrimination.

Although the group is national, it appears to specifically target the marginal constituency of Harrow East, and a Labour source told BuzzFeed News that Hindus in the area had been in contact to say they had received the above leaflet.

Hindus make up more than 28% of the constituency, according to the UK Polling Report, which means they could make a big impact on the campaign.

This is specifically true because the majority of British Hindus, 58%, plan to vote for Labour, according to the 2015 British Election Study, while 31% plan to opt for the Conservatives. In 2010, Tory candidate Bob Blackman won with a small majority of 3,400.

Uma Kumaran, the Labour candidate in the area, told i100 she was "appalled that my faith is being used against me". She added: "I am sad that such a deeply divisive leaflet has gone out. I am standing for the whole of Harrow East: a united and diverse community."

The key controversial point surrounds a proposed amendment to the Equality Act that would include caste as "an aspect of race". Once approved after a public consultation, the amendment – proposed by a Labour MP – would definitely outlaw caste discrimination.

Groups against the amendment, such as the DSP, say there isn't enough data to prove caste discrimination is actually happening.

Patrick Forbes, a member of the Conservatives' policy unit, told the DSP that his party was against discrimination of any kind. But he said the party would "not take any further action to include caste within the provisions of the Equality Act" because it believes there are sufficient legal solutions to caste discrimination already in place.

Blackman told i100 that the leaflet "had nothing to do with me".

As well as retweeting the official Conservative party press office and Tory MPs, the DSP has uploaded some of its leaflets online.

BuzzFeed News has established that the group has not registered with the Electoral Commission, despite suggesting it has done so on its leaflets.

At the bottom of leaflets sent out in Harrow East, it says the DSP has an "application in process" with the Electoral Commission.

Non-party groups that want to campaign for a political party have to register with the Electoral Commission, the independent elections regulator, if they plan to spend over £20,000 in England.

But the Electoral Commission told BuzzFeed News it had not heard from the DSP. "We haven't yet received an application from Dharma Sewa Pruvapaksha to register as a non-party campaigner," a spokesperson said.

Although the group has been active online for at least a year – its website was registered in April last year – this appears to be the first election in which it is publicly campaigning.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Mukesh Naker, the managing editor of the DSP, for comment.

Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Siraj Datoo at siraj.datoo@buzzfeed.com.

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