Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

36.Memorandum submitted by the Swaminarayan Hindu Mission

  Further to your invitation to make representations to the Home Affairs Committee in response to baseless allegations made by Mr. Jagdeesh Singh, we would like to state the following:

  Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), also known as The Swaminarayan Hindu Mission (The Mission), is a registered charity in the UK (number 273425). The Mission runs the Hindu temple, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (widely known as the "Neasden Temple"), situated at Brentfield Road, Neasden NW10.

  The Neasden Temple is exclusively used by the Mission for its religious charitable purposes. It is one of the most prominent Hindu temples in the United Kingdom and the focal point of worship for Hindus in the UK and Europe. Its very existence is a beautiful, living monument to the Hindu principles of peace and harmony. The temple makes a major contribution to community life, and the trustees and devotees are committed to peace, tolerance and love of humankind; and they are respected by people of all faiths and none.

  The Neasden Temple is an independent Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and has no political affiliations in any way, shape or form and is exclusively religious. No other organisation other than The Swaminarayan Hindu Mission and its associated bodies, have ever organised, operated from, been based at or conducted any activity from Neasden Temple, let alone the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or any other organisation whatsoever.

  The Hindu community is one of the most peaceful and law abiding in the country. We do not countenance violence of any kind whatsoever. And it is a slur to suggest otherwise. Therefore, the allegations by Mr Singh have caused profound offence to the wider Hindu community in the UK and are irresponsible, inflammatory and incorrect. It would be a tragic injustice that your witness should have sought to use the committee as a vehicle to undermine community relations in this way. You will no doubt agree that these comments rather than helping inter-community relations only serve to do the opposite. Left unchallenged, the minutes of evidence, on the Committee's website could, albeit erroneously, lend credence to such falsehood.

  To begin to understand exactly how offensive such baseless lies are to inter-community relations it is important to note that recently the mother Temple of the Neasden Temple, Akshardham in Gandhinagar, India was itself the target of an appalling terrorist attack in which some 33 innocent lives were lost including a sadhu and very young children. The Gujarat riots had just about abated and a small spark was all that was needed to re-light the fuse that could turn Gujarat into a burning inferno. However, due to the composed and measured appeal by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the Spiritual Master of the Neasden Temple, to pray for peace and to do nothing that might incite retaliatory violence or conflict in any way, this was averted. In fact, delegations of Muslim elders came to His Holiness to pay their respects and thank him for his message of peace, which resulted in peace throughout India.

  BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (also known as the Swaminarayan Hindu Mission in the UK) is a socio-spiritual, charitable organisation with an international network of over 8,100 centres, 700 learned sadhus, a million members and 55,000 volunteers performing 162 humanitarian activities. It is an NGO in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

  BAPS promotes care for education, environment, health, de-addiction, disaster management, family values, serving the needy, tribal and rural welfare, transmission of traditional and cultural awareness, Youth Development and curbing of social ills like violence and crime. It creates a society with active volunteers serving skilfully and selflessly and spreading the message of socio-spiritual harmony.

  The organisation opens up new horizons of a meaningful better life, creating a climate of peace and purity, harmony and understanding through cultural, moral and spiritual values, that inspire to serve God and humanity.

  These endeavours are a saga of sacrifice, of selfless service and boundless dedication, of continuous combined efforts of countless people; of people who have risen above the narrow confines of caste, creed, colour, sex and nationality and who live a life free from crime, aggression and addictions.

  The organisation is the inspiration of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the fifth spiritual successor of Lord Swaminarayan and the present Spiritual Leader of BAPS.

  His compassion for humanity, deep concern for its problems and conscious efforts to alleviate them, cure conflicts and promote peace in this world have touched many world religious and national leaders. However, most important is his quiet, undisturbed love for God, which rises beyond all borders of nation, religion and race. This makes him universally revered and respected.

  He has been honoured by the House of Commons and the Canadian Parliament and has been given the Freedom of the City by no less than 40 cities in the United States of America. Additionally, he was named by the Guinness World Records 2001 as one of twenty most influential people in the world.

  Various international leaders including HRH The Prince of Wales, Rt Hon John Major (then Prime Minister), Rt Hon Tony Blair (then Leader of HM Opposition) and Sir Richard Branson have visited the Neasden Temple, and confirm the peaceful nature of the Mission.

  We would like to thank you for giving us this opportunity to hopefully redress the utterly false and baseless allegations by Mr Singh.

Mr Jitu Patel


The Swaminarayan Hindu Mission

6 December 2004

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