Hindu Forum of Britain welcomes Labour move
Ramesh Kallidai, secretary-general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, has welcomed the Labour government'sproposed legislation against religious hatred, saying it was ?long overdue?.
The law, he said, would extend the current protection against racial discrimination to also cover religious discrimination.
?We are pleased to see the government taking steps to prohibit incitement to religious hatred, which would cover instances where people stir up hatred of others on the basis of their religious belief,? secretary-general of the Forum Ramesh Kallidai said in a statement.
?We welcome the announcement regarding an Equality Bill, which will extend the current protection against racial discrimination to also cover religious discrimination. This is a long overdue measure?, he said.
Kallidai said the Bill would ?close a loophole where, at the moment, members of some religions, such as Jews and Sikhs, are protected against incitement to religious hatred, under racial hatred offences, but Hindus, Christians and Muslims are not?.
?Hopefully they will get the balance right and ensure that the Bill will not be an assault on the people'sright to simply disapprove of the beliefs, teachings or practices of a religion?.
On the proposal for national identity cards, Kallidai said, ?We will watch with interest the debate on the introduction of ID cards by 2008.? He hoped that the concerns raised at a recently concluded consultation of the Forum on the proposed ID programme, including recording and reading of biometric data as well as verification of information held on the National Identity Register, would be addressed.
Kidnapper of Indian origin jailed for 12 years
The ringleader of a London-based gang, which kidnapped an 11-year-old boy and threatened to kill him unless his family paid ?40,000, has been jailed for 12 years.
Ravideep Babu, of Southall, west London, snatched the child as he walked home from school last year and phoned the boy'sfamily nine times to demand the ransom.
In one call he reportedly told them that if the money was not paid within 10 hours or if they dared to raise the alarm, ?you can see your boy'sdead body?.
He is reported to have told the police that he was owed money by one of the boy'srelatives and claimed it was a ?normal practice? in his native India to take a member of someone'sfamily to ensure that the debt was met. The 24-year-old also denied forcing the child to do anything against his will and said he had needed the ?40,000 ransom because his mother suffered from cancer.
But Matthew Kennedy, prosecuting lawyer, told at the five-week trial that the gang'smotive had been greed. He said Babu, who was smuggled into Britain four years ago, believed the boy'sfather ?could afford to pay a substantial sum of money for his son'ssafety.? It also emerged that the boy had overheard his captors discussing whether to spend the money on shopping trips, a visit to Paris, a flat, or perhaps on buying a Ferrari.
Tribute to a much missed man
A minute'ssilence was observed in Coventry in memory of former Labour Councillor, Parshotam Lal Joshi, who died recently and whose funeral attracted a large turnout of politicians during the recent General Election campaign.
Deputy Labour leader, George Duggins (Longford), said: ?He sat at the knee of some of the great people (in India). He had contacts with Nehru during his (Nehru?s) time as premier of India. Mr Joshi will be missed. I do believe he will be seen as one of the great figures in Coventry.?
Indians among highest recipients of UK citizenship
A record numbers of foreign nationals were granted British citizenship last year as revealed by the latest official figures.
The figures showed that 140,795 immigrants became British citizens last year?a 12 per cent rise on 2003 and nearly four times the number when the Labour Party took office. Since 1997, more than 700,000 foreigners have been granted citizenship as compared around 250,000 in the previous seven years.
Nearly 80,000 of the new citizens last year were from Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
Nationalities with the largest number of grants were Pakistanis (14,000), Indians (13,500) and Somalis (11,100), followed by South Africans (6,370) and Nigerians (6,280). Around 4,000 were from the EU and 4,600 from Australia and New Zealand.
About half of them were qualified by being resident in the country for five years or more?including asylum seekers?and around 30 per cent became British through marriage. The remainder were mainly dependent children.
An additional 14,000 asylum seekers were granted indefinite leave to remain in the country as part of a backlog clearance exercise and will become eligible for citizenship in future.
In the late 1960s, about 75,000 citizens a year were accepted, falling to around 50,000 after the new laws were introduced in 1971. For about 25 years, the annual figure remained close to this level, falling to 37,000 in 1997, the year Labour Party took over office. By 2002, however, the number granted citizenship had trebled to 1,20,000 and the upward trend has continued, largely fuelled by the high level of asylum seekers.
(The writer is a UK-based journalist and can be contacted at [email protected])