Categories
-Top News UK News

Win for Assange in case against extradition to US

The judges accepted that there was an arguable case that he could be discriminated against, after being told that an US prosecutor has said the first amendment may not apply to foreigners when it came to national security issues…reports Asian Lite News

Julian Assange has been granted leave to mount a fresh appeal against his extradition to the US on charges of leaking military secrets and will be able to challenge assurances from American officials on how a trial there would be conducted.

Two judges had deferred a decision in March on whether Assange, who is trying to avoid being prosecuted in the US on espionage charges relating to the publication of thousands of classified and diplomatic documents, could take his case to another appeal hearing.

On that occasion, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson ruled he would be able to bring an appeal against extradition on three grounds, unless “satisfactory” assurances were given by the US.

The assurances requested were that he would be permitted to rely on the first amendment of the US constitution, which protects freedom of speech; that he would not be “prejudiced at trial” due to his nationality; and that the death penalty would not be imposed.

There were gasps of relief from his wife and supporters at the high court in London on Monday as judges granted him leave to challenge his extradition on the grounds of whether removal would be compatible with the right to freedom of expression under the European convention on human rights, regarded as having the functional equivalent of the US first amendment, and on the grounds that he might be prejudiced at his trial or punished by reason of his nationality.

The judges accepted that there was an arguable case that he could be discriminated against, after being told that an US prosecutor has said the first amendment may not apply to foreigners when it came to national security issues.

Assange’s team did not contest an assurance by the US that the death penalty would not be sought, accepting it was an “unambiguous executive promise”. But they argued that the situation was different in relation to any assurance that the Australian-born publisher could seek the same first amendment protections on free speech as a US citizen.

Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Assange, said problems surrounding the assurances by the US were “multifold” and they did not rule out the possibility of a US court ruling that the WikiLeaks founder, as a foreigner, was not entitled to first amendment rights.

The assurance was not that Assange could “rely” on first amendment rights but “merely that he can seek to raise” them, Fitzgerald said.

Assange’s barrister also pointed to what he described as the “deafening silence” from US prosecutors including Gordon Kromberg, an assistant US attorney in the eastern district of Virginia, where Assange would stand trial.

“Specific promises from prosecutors are pretty common,” said Fitzgerald. “We will not object to bail. We will not seek the death penalty as in this case. No such specific assurance has been given here.”

James Lewis KC, representing the US, said the judges should “not be beguiled by the attractive and simplistic approach” taken by Assange’s legal team.

Assange’s nationality would not prejudice a fair hearing in the US, he said, but the conduct of which he was accused was not protected under the first amendment.

“The position of the US prosecutor is that no one, neither US citizens nor foreign citizens, are entitled to rely on the first amendment in relation to publication of illegally obtained national defence information giving the names of innocent sources to their grave and imminent risk of harm,” he added in written submissions.

“This principle applies equally to US citizens and non-US citizens irrespective of their nationality, or place of birth, and irrespective of where the conduct took place, though it is ultimately a question of law for the US courts. The conduct in question is simply unprotected by the first amendment.”

Assange was not in court for health reasons, his legal team said, but those present included his wife, Stella, and his father, John Shipton.

Speaking to supporters outside the high court after the hearing, Stella Assange said the US president, Joe Biden, was “running out of time to do the right thing” and drop the legal pursuit of her husband.

“We are relieved as a family that the courts took the right decision today but how long can this go on for? Our eldest son just turned seven,” she said.

ALSO READ-USADA accuses WADA chief of smearing US athletes

Categories
-Top News London News UK News

Sunak Apologizes for Infected Blood Scandal

The scandal has been called “the worst treatment disaster” in the history of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS)…reports Asian Lite News

The UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologised for the infected blood scandal on behalf of successive governments and declared it was a “day of national shame”.

Addressing the House of Commons following the publication of the inquiry, Sunak said on Monday: “I want to make a whole-hearted and unequivocal apology for this terrible injustice.”

He also promised to pay “comprehensive compensation” to those infected and those affected by the scandal, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Whatever it costs to deliver this scheme, we will pay it,” he said, adding that details will be set out on Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday, a damning 2,527-page inquiry concluded that the contaminated blood scandal in the UK which has caused more than 3,000 deaths, “could largely, though not entirely, have been avoided.”

The report said that “a catalogue of failures” by successive governments and doctors caused the “calamity,” in which tens of thousands of patients with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders were infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses after receiving infected blood and blood products between the 1970s and early 1990s.

“It may also be surprising that the questions why so many deaths and infections occurred have not had answers before now,” the report added.

The scandal has been called “the worst treatment disaster” in the history of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).

The report also revealed that there has been “a hiding of much of the truth” by the government and the NHS “to save face and to save expense”.

Such a cover-up was “not in the sense of a handful of people plotting in an orchestrated conspiracy to mislead, but in a way that was more subtle, more pervasive and more chilling in its implications,” it said.

The scandal was linked to supplies of a clotting factor imported from the US, which used blood from high-risk paid donors.

The government announced the establishment of a UK-wide public inquiry in 2017 to examine the circumstances that led to individuals being given contaminated blood and blood products.

In 2022, the government made interim compensation payments of 100,000 British pounds (about $127,000) to about 4,000 infected individuals and bereaved partners who were registered with the country’s infected blood support schemes.

Report: Over 3,000 Deaths in UK Blood Scandal

 A contaminated blood scandal in the UK, which has caused more than 3,000 deaths, “could largely, though not entirely, have been avoided,” according to the inquiry report on the scandal.

The report said on Monday that “a catalogue of failures” by successive governments and doctors caused the “calamity,” in which tens of thousands of patients with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders were infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses after receiving infected blood and blood products between the 1970s and early 1990s, Xinhua news agency reported.

“It may also be surprising that the questions why so many deaths and infections occurred have not had answers before now,” the report added.

The scandal has been called “the worst treatment disaster” in the history of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).

The report also revealed that there has been “a hiding of much of the truth” by the government and the NHS “to save face and to save expense”.

Such a cover-up was “not in the sense of a handful of people plotting in an orchestrated conspiracy to mislead, but in a way that was more subtle, more pervasive and more chilling in its implications,” it said.

The scandal was linked to supplies of a clotting factor imported from the US, which used blood from high-risk paid donors.

The government announced the establishment of a UK-wide public inquiry in 2017 to examine the circumstances that led to individuals being given contaminated blood and blood products.

In 2022, the government made interim compensation payments of 100,000 British pounds (about $127,000) to about 4,000 infected individuals and bereaved partners who were registered with the country’s infected blood support schemes.

ALSO READ-Sunak faces Cabinet revolt

Categories
-Top News UK News

Post-Brexit border arrangements to cost $6 bn  

The first phase of Britain’s so called new Border Target Operating Model, requiring additional certification, came into force on Jan. 31…reports Asian Lite News

The British government estimates it will spend at least 4.7 billion pounds ($6 billion) on implementing post Brexit border arrangements, after repeated delays in setting new rules, parliament’s spending watchdog said on Monday.

Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016 but, such was the scale of the task to untangle supply chains and erect customs borders, that it is only this year setting new rules.

The first phase of Britain’s so called new Border Target Operating Model, requiring additional certification, came into force on Jan. 31.

A second phase started on April 30, introducing physical checks at ports. A third phase, requiring safety and security declarations is slated for Oct. 31.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the 4.7 billion pounds figure is the amount the government forecasts it will spend on the 13 most significant programmes to manage the passage of goods across the border post Brexit and improve performance over the lifetime of the programmes.

The government delayed the implementation of full controls five times since the end of the EU exit transition period on Dec. 31 2020.

This caused uncertainty for businesses, extra costs for government and ports and increased the biosecurity risk to the UK, the NAO said.

“The repeated delays in introducing import controls, and difficulties forecasting requirements, have resulted in government expenditure on infrastructure and staff that were ultimately not needed,” it said.

“Late announcements about policy and uncertainty about the implementation of controls have also reduced the ability of businesses and ports to prepare for changes.” The NAO noted that while post EU exit border processes have operated “relatively smoothly”, businesses trading goods between the UK and the EU have faced additional costs and administrative burdens.

The watchdog was also critical of the government’s 2025 UK Border Strategy, which was published in 2020, saying it “lacks a clear timetable and an integrated cross-government delivery plan, with individual departments leading different aspects of implementation.”

The government also needed “a more realistic approach” to digital transformation, the NAO said.

ALSO READ-Farmers protest post-Brexit rules and trade deals

Categories
Politics UK News

Brighton city gets its first Muslim mayor

Asaduzzaman has lived in Brighton for 30 years and earlier worked with the state minister for irrigation and water development in Bangladesh. He also has a degree in political science…reports Asian Lite News

A council in the UK has elected Mohammed Asaduzzaman, a Bangladeshi-born, as its first-ever South Asian Muslim mayor.

Councillors unanimously voted for Asaduzzaman who was elected to Brighton and Hove City Council in the Hollingdean and Fiveways ward in May 2023, according to a BBC report. Council leader Bella Sankey described Asaduzzaman as “warm, kind, funny and ambitious for our city”.

“Brighton and Hove can look forward to a mayor whose compassion has already left a mark on the city’s social, cultural, economic and political landscape,” she said.

Asaduzzaman has lived in Brighton for 30 years and earlier worked with the state minister for irrigation and water development in Bangladesh. He also has a degree in political science.

Asaduzzaman provided 500 meals free of cost to essential service providers during the Covid-19 pandemic. He acted as an interpreter for those who needed legal help and supported people who were victims of crime. He also pushed for vaccinations for those who faced uncertainty over their immigration status.

“With three decades of residency in Brighton, he has woven himself into the very fabric of the community. His journey from Bangladesh to Brighton exemplifies a life dedicated to public service and community betterment,” Sankey was quoted as saying by BBC.

As a first citizen, the mayor’s role in Brighton and Hove is largely ceremonial, and he chairs meetings of the full council.

On the other hand, Labour councillor Amanda Grimshaw was elected as deputy mayor. She is expected to take office in a year.

ALSO READ-Sadiq Khan Secures Third Term as London Mayor

Categories
-Top News Europe UK News

Ukraine to receive 100 missiles from UK in May

According to Shapps, London “has been able to up its aid to Ukraine to £3 billion ($3.8 billion) this year.”…reports Asian Lite News

Britain has sent 80 air defense missiles to Ukraine since the beginning of May and another 20 are to be delivered by June, the British tabloid The Sun wrote on May 19, citing Defense Minister Grant Shapps.

He urged allies to speed up military assistance to Kyiv amid Russia’s offensive in Kharkiv Oblast and help arm Ukraine to avoid the “biggest threat” to world order this century. “Last week’s events should serve as a wake-up call to the West,” he said.

“Warm words are not enough. Every nation that values their freedom must step-up and provide what they can, as quickly as they can, to ensure the Ukrainian Armed Forces can fight off the illegal invasion.”

According to Shapps, London “has been able to up its aid to Ukraine to £3 billion ($3.8 billion) this year.”

On April 23, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the allocation of the largest aid package to Ukraine in history from the United Kingdom, totaling over half a billion pounds sterling ($600 million), including 60 boats, over 1600 strike and anti-aircraft missiles, additional long-range Storm Shadow missiles, and over 400 units of various equipment.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with British Secretary of State for Defense Grant Shapps in Kyiv on March 7, 2024. Among other things, they discussed the establishment of joint weapons production.

The Telegraph reported in February 2023 that senior British defense industry officials were discussing the possibility of arms production in Ukraine. British managers visited Ukraine to establish joint ventures that would produce weapons and equipment under license.

London also sent Kyiv more than 30 pallets of parts, including anti-mine equipment, over a million rounds of small arms ammunition, 20 Viking armored amphibious vehicles, and over 4,000 items of military clothing.

Shapps added that in 2024, the total amount of aid provided to Ukraine from the U.K. will be worth 3 billion pounds (around $3,8 billion).

“We are committed to reaching 2.5% of GDP on Defense by 2030, and this is the first down payment,” Shapps said.

The U.K. has consistently voiced strong support for Ukraine, alongside the U.S. and Germany.

The country has pledged 12.5 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in support to Ukraine since February 2022, of which 7.6 billion pounds ($9.5 billion) is for military assistance.

ALSO READ-ICC probing Ukraine, Gaza war crimes defies threats

Categories
-Top News Business UK News

Businessman Gopichand Hinduja tops UK’s new rich list

Gopichand Hinduja, who is also called GP, was born in 1940 in India and also leads Hinduja Automotive Ltd…reports Asian Lite News

Gopichand Hinduja, chairperson of the Hinduja Group, has once again emerged as the richest individual in the United Kingdom, according to the UK Sunday Times Rich List. This is the sixth consecutive year when the Hinduja Family has topped the list.

According to the list, Hinduja’s net worth is currently around £37.196 billion. In 2024 alone, it rose by £2.196 billion.

Hinduja is followed by businessman Leonard Blavatnik and David and Simon Reuben and family on the list. They had a net worth of £29.24 billion and £24.97 billion respectively.

Another Indian who featured in the top 10 rankings on the list was Lakshmi Mittal and family with a net worth of £14.92 billion, on the 8th spot.

Mittal, also known as “Steel King” is the executive chairman of ArcelorMittal, the world’s second largest steelmaking company. He is also the chairman of stainless steel manufacturer Aperam. He was born in Rajgarh, Rajasthan.

Gopichand Hinduja, who is also called GP, was born in 1940 in India and also leads Hinduja Automotive Ltd.

He took over as the chairman of the group last year when his brother Srichand Hinduja died of Dementia. Gopichand graduated from Mumbai’s Jain Hind College in 1959 and also holds an honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of Westminster.

Gopichand also has an honorary Doctorate of Economics from the Richmond College, London.

The Hinduja family business was initially set up by Parmanand Hinduja, Gopichand’s father, in 1914. Gopichand took the business, which was primarily a trading company, and transformed it into the multi-billion dollar conglomerate that it is now.

After Srichand’s death, a family feud surfaced in the company for its control. Srichand’s children said their family was being sidelined. Clearer details of the division are yet to emerge from the family. Its business is currently collectively owned by all four brothers – Srichand’s family, Gopichand, Prakash, and Ashok.

Akshata Murty is richer than King Charles

The Sunday Times Rich List stated that Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty’s personal wealth increased by £122 million in the previous year. The pair’s projected net worth increased from £529 million in 2023 to £651 million in the most recent list. This was mostly because of Murty’s ownership stake in Infosys, the massive Indian IT company that her father co-founded. According to the yearly list of the wealthiest people in the UK, it indicates that they are richer than King Charles.

The Prime Minister and Murty are the richest couple to reside at No. 10 Downing Street, ranking 245th on the list. They now have more money than King Charles, who saw an increase in his personal fortune this year from £600 million to £610 million. In 2022, the Sunaks were ranked higher than the late Queen Elizabeth II, whose personal wealth was estimated to exceed £370 million that year, reported the Metro UK. (Also Read: Good news for King Charles: His personal net worth sees dramatic surge, and it’s far more than Queen Elizabeth II)

The news outlet also shared that the revelation coincides with the ongoing cost of living problem, as evidenced by recent data from the Trussell Trust showing that 3.1 million food parcels were distributed in the past year—a record number. The PM, who is guiding the nation through a crisis caused by rising living expenses, is a former hedge fund manager, but Murty is by far the richest member of the Sunak family. Prior to becoming a partner at two hedge funds, he spent 2001–2004 as an analyst at investment bank Goldman Sachs. Just 6.5% of Sunak’s total income comes from his investments; the remainder comes from his MP salary of £91,346) and PM salary of £80,807.

ALSO READ-Hinduja Group’s The OWO Residences Record Robust Sales

Categories
-Top News UK News

Sunak faces Cabinet revolt

Fresh trouble over plans to scrap the Graduate Route scheme, the definitive factor for choosing UK universities among Indian students…reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is considering restrictions to the UK’s post-study visa which allows graduates to stay on and work for up to two years after their degree course as part of efforts to curb soaring legal migration figures despite strong opposition from some of his ministers, a report claims on Sunday.

According to ‘The Observer’ newspaper, Sunak is facing a Cabinet revolt over plans to scrap the Graduate Route scheme, the definitive factor for choosing UK universities among Indian students who have topped the tally of these post-study visas since it was launched in 2021.
Downing Street is said to be considering “further restricting or even ending” the route despite the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) declaring it was not being abused and that it should continue as it helps UK universities make up for financial losses on the domestic front.

“Sunak is now finding himself caught between the demands of right-wingers with one eye on the Tory leadership and Conservative moderates who fear the consequences of a lurch to the right on the party’s reputation and election chances,” claims the newspaper, quoting sources close to ministers who oppose scrapping the visa.
Sunak’s Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Foreign Secretary David Cameron are among those in the Cabinet said to be leading a revolt over the issue. It comes as university and business chiefs have warned that any curtailment of the post-study offer would make the UK less attractive to overseas students, including Indians.

“Studying at university is one of our biggest export successes. Attracting international students boosts local economies and losing competitiveness would put support for undergraduate teaching and innovation at risk,” said John Foster, Chief Policy and Campaigns Officer for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
“With the MAC finding that the Graduate Visa is achieving the government’s own policy objectives and is not being abused, it’s time to put its future beyond doubt and end this period of damaging speculation,” he said.

Universities UK (UUK), the leading representative body for UK universities, has also called upon the government to end the “toxic” uncertainty caused by the government’s decision to review the visa route.

“We hope and expect that the government now listens to the advice they have been given and provides categorical reassurance that the Graduate visa is here to stay,” said UUK chief executive Vivienne Stern.
MAC Chair Professor Brian Bell, who concluded the rapid review into the scheme earlier this week, has said that “our evidence suggests that it’s the Indian students that will be most affected by any restriction on the Graduate Route”.

The influential committee which advises the UK government on migration found that Indians accounted for 89,200 visas between 2021 and 2023 or 42 per cent of the overall grants, and the visa was stated as the “overwhelming decision point” for their choice of a higher education destination.

“The uncertainty caused by the review has been chaotic. We urge the government to accept the MAC’s findings and ensure the Graduate Route remains a stable and permanent fixture in the UK’s immigration system,” said Vignesh Karthik from the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK.

In a general election year, expected in the coming months, the Sunak-led government sees curbing high legal and illegal migration figures as a priority area and with the latest set of quarterly immigration statistics due next week, further clampdowns are on the horizon.

Sunak is now finding himself caught between the demands of rightwingers with one eye on the Tory leadership and Conservative moderates who fear the consequences of a lurch to the right on the party’s reputation and election chances.

Pressure on Sunak to act on student visas has come from potential future challengers for the party leadership, including the former home secretary Suella Braverman. A recent report by former Home Office minister Robert Jenrick, seen as another potential leadership contender, and Tory MP Neil O’Brien, for the Centre for Policy Studies, called for the abolition of the graduate route to a visa.

At the start of this year the government introduced tighter rules meaning that international students could no longer bring family members to this country unless they were on postgraduate research courses and courses with government-funded scholarships. This has already led to a drop in numbers.

Dr Michael Spence, president and provost of University College London, said further curbs on international student visas would be “an extraordinary act of national self-harm”.

“A single cohort of international students brings £37bn of economic benefit to the UK and this is directly felt by local businesses and communities in towns and cities in every part of the country,” he said.
“But the value of our international students is not just economic. These are people who take the brave step to travel thousands of miles around the world to get a world-class education in the UK. They bring their ideas and perspectives and build a profound connection with our country which lasts long after they leave.”

ALSO READ-Sunak plans to tweak Graduate Route visa

Categories
-Top News India News UK News

West Flooded with Negative Narratives on India, Says UK Journalist

Stevenson, having recently traveled to India, underscored the significance of firsthand experiences in grasping the reality of the country, stating, “People must visit here, witness it firsthand.”…reports Asian Lite News

Shedding light into what he claimed were prevailing ‘misconceptions’ surrounding India in the West, Sam Stevenson, the assistant editor of the UK-based newspaper, Daily Express, said Europe and the West are ‘inundated’ with ‘unfavourable narratives’ about India, primarily propagated by the media.

“Unfortunately, the perceptions of India across Europe and the West are not good. And this is because we are being fed negative stories from the press,” Stevenson said, pointing to the ‘detrimental’ impact of ‘biased reporting’ on public opinion.

In a candid assessment of the perception of India in the Western world, Stevenson told ANI expanded on the prevalence of negative narratives fuelled by media coverage.

Stevenson, who recently visited India, emphasised the importance of firsthand experiences in understanding the country’s reality, saying, “People need to come here, see it with their own eyes, live it, breathe it, meet the people, speak to people on the ground, and you will be seeing that new India, global Britain, we can be a force for good.”

While advocating for a more nuanced approach to reporting, he also weighed in on the portrayal of religious dynamics in India, calling out the ‘simplistic narratives’ perpetuated by the media. “The British media are attempting to simplify something that’s very complicated. They’re saying (PM) Modi is anti-Islam. But actually, when you get on the ground and you speak to real Muslims, when you speak to Hindus, Sikhs, you will see that India is accepting of all cultures or religions. And that is the absolutely fantastic thing about this place,” he said, underscoring the country’s rich diversity and inclusivity.

Stevenson, who was in India recently to cover the ongoing general elections, also stressed the need to portray a more accurate picture of the country, saying, “It’s time to start telling the positive stories of new India, of this great nation on its epic trajectory to becoming a USD 5 trillion economy in the future.”

He also advocated shifting the prevalent narrative towards highlighting India’s successes and potential.

Amid the pushback in the power corridors of the country against ‘biased reporting’ in a section of the Western media, Stevenson underscored the responsibility of the media in presenting a comprehensive and accurate portrayal of India. “It’s time to say enough with the India bashing. Down with the anti-India ‘Bakwas’. We need to come here and tell the true, positive stories of new India,” he said, advocating a more informed and nuanced understanding of the country’s complexities.

Expressing dismay over the prevailing narrative around alleged divisions on grounds of religion in India, Stevenson challenged these notions citing his firsthand experiences. “We’re hearing things like religious divisions, but that’s not what we’ve witnessed on the ground,” he said, citing the communal harmony on show at the campaign rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Stevenson vowed to challenge existing narratives and bring forth the “reality of India’s pluralistic society”. “We’re here to level up the British media’s coverage of this nation. And we’re here to get to the truth and find some real facts and bring them home to London,” he signed off saying, underscoring his commitment to journalistic integrity and factual reporting. (ANI)

ALSO READ: ‘UK politics in ‘dangerous’ state’

Categories
-Top News Politics UK News

‘UK politics in ‘dangerous’ state’

Labour MP Kim Leadbeater warns that threats to politicians and mental health strains have put UK democracy in a “dangerous” place…reports Asian Lite News

UK politics is in a worse situation than it was in 2016 when Jo Cox was murdered, the late MP’s sister has warned.

Labour MP Kim Leadbeater, who represents her sister’s former seat in Parliament, said threats to politicians’ safety and the strain on their mental health meant the UK’s democracy was in a “dangerous” place.

In a further sign of the strain being felt in Westminster, Tory MP Elliot Colburn said MPs across the House had attempted to take their own lives.

The MPs were speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s show Broken Politicians, Broken Politics.

Cox was murdered in 2016 by a right-wing extremist in her Yorkshire constituency during the European Union referendum campaign.

Leadbeater, who represents the same Batley and Spen seat, told the BBC programme: “I think politics was in a pretty bad place at that time. There was a lot of division. There was a lot of anger.”

“Sadly, I would say, if anything, it’s worse.”

She added: “Elected officials not feeling they can always speak freely, not feeling they can always say what they really think.”

“And potentially, worst case scenario, not necessarily voting in the way that they think they should vote because they know the impact it’s going to have on their safety, but also on their mental health and well-being.

“And that is a really dangerous place to be. That is not good for democracy.”

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned the UK could be descending into “mob rule” amid fears about MPs being targeted by demonstrators over the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Meanwhile, Colburn, who has spoken in the Commons about a 2021 suicide attempt, told the programme: “Colleagues from all UK political parties have attempted to take their own life.”

The programme had exclusive access to preliminary findings of a 2024 survey of departing MPs, highlighting the impact of the job on their mental health.

It also includes new evidence from the House of Commons, which suggested that mental health is one of the most common reasons those in Westminster contact its medical services.

Matt Hawkins, co-director of the campaign group Compassion in Politics, said: “We need to have a national conversation about the harm our political system is doing to anyone who seeks to work in it or with it.”

“Toxic debates, abuse, long hours, lack of autonomy – these are just some of the issues that are taking a massive toll on our elected representatives and their teams.”

“But the problem doesn’t stop there. These are the individuals being chosen to represent our interests, and they are having to do so while perennially exhausted, often anxious, and sometimes depressed.”

“If we want to change our country for the better, we need to change our politics and help create a political environment that is inclusive, welcoming, supportive, and caring.”

ALSO READ: UK tightens scrutiny of all Indian spice imports  

Categories
-Top News Culture UK News

Sikh-Muslim Tensions in the Europe’s Diasporic Communities


Qualitative interviews with Sikhs in the UK, US, and Canada reveal the challenges of “forced” conversions faced by the community…reports Asian Lite News

Concerns over ‘forced’ conversions initiated by predatory Muslim males, who ‘groom’ Sikh ‘girls’ into converting to Islam against their will, have resurfaced in Europe, especially in Britain. This pattern first emerged in late 1980s and early 1990s and has been occurring since then, within the Sikh-Muslim social fabric in the West.

In Britain several cases have demonstrated how Muslim men are deliberately deceiving and tricking vulnerable Sikh females into Islam. While the “Kaur to Khan” project might sound  sensational, it is a prominent source of anxiety within the Sikh diasporic community.

Empirical data generated by a series of qualitative interviews with Sikhs in the UK, US, and Canada, captures the challenges faced by the community by these  “forced” conversions. Sikh elders have concerns over the preservation of community along with wider anxieties around interfaith marriage.

Muslim men have allegedly been disguising themselves as Sikhs as a way to lure in vulnerable girls from the Sikh community. Younger Muslims are known to target Sikh girls on university campuses across Britain; even going so far as to donning Sikh religious symbols like the Kara (a steel or cast iron bangle worn by male Sikhs) or and even drinking to fool the girls into thinking that he is Indian/Sikh. Once a relationship (often sexual) is established, it is purported that the Muslim man reveals his true identity and forces the Sikh girl to convert by blackmailing her with indecent pictures, thus leaving the girl at risk of “shaming” her family. In most cases the girl is then beaten up or taken to Pakistan to work as a prostitute; no one knows of her whereabouts. Although various modifications to this pattern have appeared, the threat of Muslim men luring and converting Sikh women is well established.

The disguise, the phases of entrapment and the ‘grooming’ process combine to construct the specific agenda in practice by Muslims in their ‘mission’ to convert Sikh ‘girls.

According to Marie Macey, of the University of Bradford, “In recent years, the organisation of religious and political extremism has taken place both on and off educational premises. This presentation of political ideology under the guise of religious orthodoxy attempts to recruit and mobilise young men to become perpetrators of violence. For example, leaflets circulated in Bradford exhorting young Muslim men to rape Sikh women and murder homosexuals are traceable to extremist Islamic organisations operating across the UK,…”  (Class, Gender and Religious Influences on Changing Patterns of Pakistani Muslim Male Violence in Bradford, 1999).

In some instances the Sikh girls are not just converted but also radicalised to such an extent that they become willing participants in radical Islamic movements. In 2018 the case of 18-year-old British-Sikh girl Sandeep Samra, who converted to Islam and tried to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State terror network made headlines.

In fear the Sikh communities in Britain have resorted to awareness campaigns about Muslim men threatening the future of Sikh communities by exerting control over Sikh women. These include  disseminating “warning” leaflets to the Sikh community, awareness talks and film screenings on university campuses and at gurdwaras and television documentaries of Sikh victims telling their stories.

NRI Sikhs and nd members of the Sikh Council of UK, an organisation involved in religious, social and cultural matters related to Sikhism, have from time to time brought to the notice of the Akal Takht has taken a serious view of reports of Sikh girls falling victim to ‘love jihad’ an act that involves ‘charming’ Pakistani youths attempting to impress, marry and convert non-Muslim girls to Islam.  The reports also referred to these girls being exploited in various ways by their husbands and in-laws. Some of these girls were later dumped by their husbands in Pakistan, where the in-laws have been using them as domestic help. “The Sikh Council has rescued some of the victims (girls) and brought them back to their parents,” the Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said. When asked how many such cases existed in the UK or England, he replied, “There could be hundreds.”

Recently on 22 February, 2024 a Sikh woman of Indian origin from Germany married a Pakistani man. After exchanging vows with Ali Arsalan, Jaspreet Kaur was converted to Islam and is now known as Zainab,as confirmed by the certificate of acceptance of Islam issued by the Jamia Hanafia, Sialkot. Incidentally over 2,000 non-Muslims have ‘embraced’ Islam at Sialkot’s Jamia Hanafia.

In the UK, Islamic Supremacist groups such as Al-Majiroun are known to engage in aggressive proselytising activities and have been accused of spreading leaflets in universities urging Muslim students to target Sikh girls for ‘conversion.’

Among Muslims and Sikhs in Britain today there are several areas of contestation that have the potential to turn into serious conflict.

Muslim population of the UK is several times larger than the Sikh population. Further some localities, such as Southall, Slough, West Bromwich, Handsworth, and Hillingdon, traditionally associated with the Sikh community, have experienced an increase in Muslim settlement. This rapid demographic change has led to intense competition over resources such as housing, education, social services and social security.

Lately Muslim and Sikh youth have been engaged in serious acts of violence in a number of cities/localities across UK and Europe. This mobilisation has been conducted over allegations of ‘forced conversions’ of Sikh girls by Muslim boys.

In the latest manifestation of the hate between the Sikh and Muslim communities in the West, an online conflict is underway between Sikhs and Muslims in Europe. The matter started some weeks ago, when a Sikh posted hateful comments about Muslims over video platform TikTok from the US or UK. The video was responded to by attacks on Sikhs by Muslim uploaders of Pakistani origin. Pakistani TikToker ‘Hassan Gondal Dogar’ based in Berlin, Germany has particularly been very vocal in criticising Sikh, with negative references about the Khalistan and about Sikh girls. Reacting to Gondal’s provocative remarks, Sikh TikToker by account name Mannaphagwara @manna_phagwara, hailing from Phagwara in Punjab and currently residing in Savigliano, Cuneo, Italy, has committed to travel to Berlin and see face to face with Gondal. Apparently now Sikh youth from different parts of Europe, including Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands etc. are planning to travel to Berlin for the Gondal – Mannaphagwara face off.

It is evident that in some localities in Europe there are serious underlying tensions between some segments of the Muslim and Sikh communities, especially the youth. This contestation between Sikh and Muslims over resources and especially over conversion is increasingly leading to racialisation of the diasporic communities. There is already some resentment in the public sphere among Sikh groups that public sector resources are being disproportionately allocated to deal with Muslim issues because of the Islamic radicalisation security threat, at the expense and marginalisation of other communities.

It is troublesome that in Britain and in the wider West today, religion is recognised as the core marker of minority identity for Sikhs and Muslims. Since the late 1990s there has been a distinct shift from ‘ethnic’ to ‘religious identification as either Sikh or Muslim. This fact is supported by research which has identified the centrality of religious institutions, especially places of worship, in the daily lives of minority communities.  Given that the profile of both Muslim and Sikh communities in the West is very young, their radicalisation should be a matter of concern for the governments.

ALSO READ: Anti-Semitism Peaks

ALSO READ: Biden condemns anti-Semitism, backs Israel