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I turn now to Orissa and then shall give one or two further thoughts. Christians are not the only victims of violence by Hindu extremists. I refer, as the noble
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from On the Late Massacre in Piedmont in the 17th century. The horrors have been well described by Christian Solidarity Worldwide and by the Maranatha Community, in three submissions to the FCO. I make only two points, because those horrors are well illustrated.
First, there is the role of the VHPthe Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a militant Hindu nationalist movementin inciting violence. According to the Maranatha Community, that movement seeks to drive Christians out of India; my concern is more about its activities in the United Kingdom, about which I asked a Question in your Lordships House on 17 November. The VHP is a registered charity here, with branches around the country. It seems wrong, in principle, for a body widely perceived to be associated with inciting violence abroad and to have at least some links with terrorismcertainly, with the inflammatory language of the extremiststo enjoy charitable status. I hope that the Government will refer its position in this country to the relevant authorities.
Secondly, on Orissa, I stress only the urgency of the situation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, did. Last Christmas, as she has said, there was an upsurge of violence against Christians in Orissa, with over 500 Christian homes burnt, 100 Christian shops looted and over 50 churches destroyed by militant Hindu extremists, who declared a bandha stay-away or closedownon Christmas Day to prevent celebrations. Of course, the widespread atrocities in August were well documented, but the problem of a further bandh is a new and urgent situation. The closedown that the militants have declared on Christmas Day has put Christians awaiting Christmas into great fear.
This morning, I spoke to Bishop D.K. Sahu, the general-secretary of the National Council of Churches in India. He was in Delhi today but will shortly visit Orissa again. He mentioned that representatives of the British high commission, along with other EU diplomatic representatives, visited the state on 5 December and expressed their concern about the declaration of the bandh. He mentioned, however, rather more promising signs; two days ago, in the Orissa state assembly, the opposition called for the Christmas Day bandh to be declared illegal, and the states Chief Minister gave certain assurances about ensuring that the bandh will not take place. Yesterday, 3,000 primary school teachers in Kandhamal district apparently held a successful peace rally, and the district magistrate has called a meeting this Saturday. I hope that is to prepare for the possible outbreak of the bandh on Christmas Day. There appears, at least, to be a response to the national and international pressure that Christians should be allowed to celebrate on Christmas Day. I should mention that Bishop Sahu also expressed his concern about conditions in the relief camps, which the noble Baroness alluded to.
Finally on this situation, the Indian Prime Minister, who has acted in great, statesmanlike ways on this matter, called the August massacre a national shame after meeting with President Sarkozy, who was acting on behalf of the EU presidency. He is clearly well aware of the damage to Indias reputation abroad, which these actions are tarnishing. He must be equally well aware that the Christian community is law-abiding, and well known for helping the poor in the area. The Government of India must also be well aware of the threat to public order and should, with the state government, take immediate steps to protect the Christian community. I pray that the warnings of what might well happen on Christmas Dayas happened last Christmas, and again in Augustwill be heeded. At least there are, as I learned this morning from the bishop, some signs of hope.
Lord Bilimoria: My Lords, on 22 November I spoke at the Hindustan Times leadership conference in Delhi. The last session of the conference was a live video debate with President Zardari of Pakistan. He was being filmed in his presidential palace with his lancers behind him, flanked by a portrait of his late wife Benazir Bhutto and a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. The conference ended on a terrific high as President Zardari spoke with genuine optimism about Indo-Pakistan relations. Then, just four days later, the atrocities in Mumbai took place. We are all shocked, saddened and angered by what happened there and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for tabling this Motion after those tragic events.
This was not just an attack on Mumbai or just on India, but an attack on the United States of America, on Israel and on us in Britain. Our condolences and sympathy go out to everyone affected. In the midst of all this, my 10 year-old daughter in her innocence asked me, Daddy, how can people kill innocent people like this?. I said to her, I dont know, and I dont think I ever will know. I will never understand how terrorists can so ruthlessly and deliberately kill innocent men, women and children.
Almost immediately after the attack, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed the finger abroad, ostensibly at Pakistan, and our own high commissioner in India, Sir Richard Stagg, increased the pressure on Islamabad by saying that,
It is clear that much of the north of Pakistan is slipping out of government control. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has repeatedly spoken of a chain of terror stretching from Pakistan, through Afghanistan to European and British shores. Real international pressure has been brought to bear on Pakistan since the attacks.
It was reassuring to see the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, visit the region so soon after the attacks and hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Zardari. When that happened, I thought, Wouldnt it be wonderful if our own Secretary
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Earlier this month, when the England cricket team was debating whether to go back to India for the test series, I remarked how much cricket is at the heart of the Indian nation and how much it would mean to India if the British players defied the terrorists and returned to India. Not only did the whole team return but it provided us with a most thrilling test match. Having been born and brought up in India, I am often asked which country I support at cricket and whether I would pass the so-called Tebbit test. I assure your Lordships that I usually enjoy the game purely for the appreciation of the cricket without taking sides, but I was overjoyed when one of the greatest cricketers of all time, Sachin Tendulkar, scored a century and won the test match for India. On top of that, he dedicated the Indian victory to Mumbai. He said that,
There is no question but that lessons are being learnt from the atrocities in Mumbai. The Indian security services were found to be hugely lacking. We have learnt that the United States had provided warning of imminent attacks on Mumbai a month before they occurred. We have learnt that a week before the attacks the Indian Navy and coastguard failed to intercept the fishing trawler that transported the terrorists, despite warnings from Indian intelligence that an attack by sea was immediate. We have learnt that on the day of the attacks the police initially dismissed them as mere gang warfare. This is no way to fight terrorism.
I am pleased to hear, however, that the Indian Government are speeding through legislation to create an FBI-style national investigative agency as well as to enhance coastal security and strengthen anti-terror laws. Given the United Kingdoms vast experience and history in this field, from Ireland to combating modern global terrorism, and given the joint exercises that the UK already undertakes with the Indian armed forces, I urge the Government to do everything that they can to help the Indian authorities, police, paramilitary forces, armed forces and intelligence services in this task, for Indias benefit and security and for our own.
As we heard from the noble Baroness, India is the most complex and diverse country in the world by far. Every day, Indians feel the pull of those invisible threads that keep them united, yet I believe that the vast majority of Indians feel themselves to be Indian first over their regional identitiesI am not sure that we can say the same over here and whether people feel that they are English, Scottish, Welsh or British first.
India remains a steadfast, pluralist and secular democracy, where, every day, 99.9 per cent of all its religious groups coexist peacefully side by sideIndia has the second-largest population of Muslims in the worldbut all this does not detract from the serious internal difficulties with which it is struggling, in Orissa, in Kashmir, as well as the growing Maoist Naxalite insurgency in hundreds of districts.
A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance ... The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity ... to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.
Has Nehrus dream been fulfilled? To this day, every time I land in India, I am hit by its abject poverty, which is as great today as it was when I grew up there as a child. The India that has caught the worlds attention with its 300 million middle-class consumersa sector of society that is growing at a rapid rate, with 14 million people being added to it every yearis a world apart from the 300 million people at the other end of the social spectrum who live on less than $1 per day.
According to the World Bank, 456 million Indians, or 42 per cent of the population, lived below the poverty line in 2005; in 1981, the number was 420 million. India has 60 million chronically malnourished children, which is 40 per cent of the worlds total. When we talk of Indias GDP growth rate having averaged 8.8 per cent over the past five years, what people overlook is that this is an average. As a leading Indian economist once explained, If I have one foot in frozen ice and the other foot on burning coals, on average I am comfortable. There are states in India with appalling sanitation, appalling literacyespecially among womenand appalling malnutrition, yet this is a country that is a nuclear power and that has just launched its first mission to the moon.
As chairman of the UK India Business Council, supported by UK Trade & Investment, and the UK chair of the Indo-British Partnership, I used to deal with the current Home Minister, Mr Chidambaram, who has taken up his post since the Mumbai attacks, in his capacity as Finance Minister. I would say, Why cant we reform quicker? Please can you open up the Indian economy faster?. He would say to me, Do you think we dont want to reform quicker?. However, he would then explain to me the practicalities of implementing reform with a coalition of 18 parties.
On top of that, India is a country of several states. It has a federal system where each state operates almost like a country. In many ways, it is easier to do business between countries in the European Union than between states within India. Not only does India have all the challenges of awful infrastructure and very poor primary education but it is surrounded by neighbours with enormous problems of their own. At 4 per cent, south Asia has one of the worst figures for internal trade. One should compare that with south-east Asia, where it is 20 per cent, let alone with the European Union and what we have here. If only we had more intra-south Asia trade, it would help to bring those countries together and solve many of the problems. However, I believe that India is an example of the saying, Some people fail because of and others succeed in spite of. In spite of all its challenges, complexities and problems, India will succeed.
I do not remember a great deal from my physics lessons at school, but I remember one formula: momentum = mass x velocity. A population of 1.1 billion and an economy growing at nearly 9 per cent a year: that is unstoppable momentum. India is now reaping the rewards of the liberalisation of its economy, which started only in 1991. The India in which I was brought up was inward-looking, closed and insular; today, the spirit of entrepreneurship and enterprise has been unleashed and India is an outward-looking, open and increasingly vigorous economy, with Indian companies, in manufacturing as well as in the IT sector about which we hear, going global. This sustained economic growth is critical to tackling poverty. However, the Government or foreign direct investment alone will be unable comprehensively to tackle Indias challenges; we need NGOs, corporates and individuals to do the ground-level work that is so urgently required.
Today, the world has woken up to India and India is rightly taking its place at the top table of the world. The Nuclear Suppliers Group waiver to India, with the help of the United States, acknowledges this fact. It is a defining moment for India, yet India is not a member of the G7 or G8 and it still does not have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, which I know Britain wishes to see.
I always say that there are two countries to which we in Britain are closer than any others in the world: one is the United States and the other is India. The reason is that we share the same values and principles in terms of democracy, the rule of law, a free and vibrant press, English being the language of business, and, of course, a shared history.
At the Hindustan Times summit in Delhi in November, I shared the podium with a remarkable young man, Chetan Bhagat, who at the young age of 35 has become the biggest-selling author in India. In his speech, he spoke about what really mattered to young Indians. He said that young Indians above all wanted the politics of similarity, not the politics of difference and elitism, and that they wanted education. There is a huge shortage of capacity and quality in education at every level, yet to this day foreign universities cannot open up in India. By contrast, I am delighted to see record numbers of Indian students coming over here to study in the UK. We have a great advantage in this country in that 2 per cent of our population is made up of Indians. That 2 per cent is now reaching the very top, which is no better illustrated than by our Deputy Speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Paul, whom I congratulate on his new position. It is an honour to speak in the first debate over which he presides. That 2 per cent of the British population contributes more than double that figure to the British economy.
With all these links, and with the relationship between Britain and India stronger than everpeople to people, business to business, Government to Governmentwe are in the best position to be Indias best friend, yet when I give talks around the country and ask business audiences how many of them are doing business with India, less than 5 per cent of the hands go up.
When the 1998 financial crisis took place in Asia, India was barely scratched; today, India has been directly affected by the financial crisis now facing us
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The Mumbai attacks were an attempt to destabilise this growth even further. India has sadly experienced several terrorist attacks over the years, with almost 1,000 people killed in the past three years, but it bounces back every time. After the 2001 attacks on the Indian Parliament, the Indian economy turbocharged from 2002 onwards.
When I am in Bombay, I stay in the Taj hotel. When I go with my family and children, they always look forward to it and love staying thereit is, after all, one of the finest hotels in the world. After the attacks, my children asked me, Daddy, will we be staying at the Taj again?. I said to them, Of course, we will. When I wrote to the resident manager of the Taj to express my sympathies, I got an e-mail back from Birgit Zorniger, which stated:
Thank you for your supportive words and with every passing day we are getting closer to reopening the Taj in memory of those whose lives have been lost. Your support gives us the strength to go on and we look forward to welcoming you and your family soon.
India did not invite this attack; she simply embodied the ideals that these terrorists find so threateningthe ideals of democracy, liberty and freedom. The world has admired Indias restraint after these attacks and we should take comfort from the words on Mumbais coat of arms:
Britain has time and again proved to its allies that we are not just fair-weather friends; we are eternal friends, with mutual trust and mutual respect. We are partners in the good times and partners in the bad times. It is this spirit, which India and Britain share, that means that terrorists cannot win and will never, ever win.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for initiating this debate at such an opportune time. Like other noble Lords, I express my sympathy for the bereaved and injured as a result of the recent atrocity in Mumbai, and encourage the Indian Government in their measured response to it.
It is important to note at some point during this debate that the Indian constitution is in principle a very sound one, which ought to be followed by a number of other countries in the world where there is no religious freedom, even in theory. The distinguished scholar Amartya Sen has argued that India allows for a secular society in the very best sense of that term: one in which it is recognised that religion has an important role to play, but in which all religions are treated on an equal basis. The relationship of the state to religion may be close or distant, he says, but the point is that in a secular state they will all be treated in the same way.
Against that background, the first issue I raise is the same one raised by the noble Baroness and other speakers, but with a particular slant. That is, why have the Indian Government not taken action in relation to the state of Orissa? The constitution, as I understand it, specifically says that, in the case of internal unrest in a state, the national Government have the right to intervene. We know that there are still something like 50,000 displaced dalit Christians there who are fearful of returning to their homes, because the perpetrators of the recent religiously inspired violence regard themselves as immune from prosecution. It was this very sense of immunity, arising from a failure to bring charges after the previous attack in Orissa in December 2007, that gave rise to the even worse one this year. So I ask Her Majestys Government to urge the Indian Government to exercise what I understand is their proper constitutional role in Orissa, to ensure that proper justice is carried out within that state.
My second point has already been made, but it is worth reiterating. Although, like other speakers, I have a particular concern for dalits and dalit Christians, other minoritiesnot least Muslimsneed to be reassured that both the state and national Governments will act to preserve Indias constitutional position of every religion being treated on an equal basis. In Gujarat in 2002, over 1,000 peopleperhaps as many as 2,000were killed, most of them Muslims. Since then, many Muslims in that state have felt fearful. Human rights, including the right to practise ones religion, are universal; they exist on the basis of our very humanity, and a Christian would rightly be just as concerned with the protection of those rights for members of other religions as for members of their own.
I come to my third point. Dalits in general, but dalit Christians in particular, are being disgracefully discriminated against in a number of different ways. The Indian caste system has rightly been described by none other than the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, as a terrible blot on humanity and it is no lesssad to saya blot on India itself. Although some steps have been taken to redress this, at the moment it is working in such a way as to disadvantage dalit Christians even more than other dalits. For whereas there is a reservation system in public sector education and employment for scheduled caste dalits, dalits who convert to Christianity lose that status, and therefore their eligibility for a reserved place. So although the state has made some legislative efforts to overcome the discrimination that dalits in general suffer, dalit Christians do not benefit. The result is that dalit Christians are doubly disadvantaged: they are discriminated against as dalits, and because they are dalit Christians. Although the linking between scheduled caste and religious identity has been challenged in the courts since 2004, there is still no satisfactory outcome. The national Government and state governments need urgently to recognise this gross injustice and rectify it.
In speaking of the dalits, we are not just speaking about a few peoplealthough even if it were only a few, it would still be an outrage. There are well over 250 million dalits, perhaps 270 million, in India. The extraordinary thing is that, as I understand it, they represent one in 25 of the worlds population. They
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Take just one area, which has not yet been mentionededucation. The economic development of India in recent years has indeed been remarkablealmost miraculous. But something even more remarkable and miraculous is the extraordinary way in which the millions of poor in India somehow survive against all the odds and, as I have experienced, with extraordinary personal, spiritual dignity and sometimes even joy. That is deeply moving, and such a contrast to people who are degraded in some other western capitalist societies. To focus on the development, they produce more than 2 million graduates a year, and something like half of the worlds software engineers come from India. But this extraordinary development among the middle classes, as already mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, in his wonderful speech, simply highlights the growing gap with the poor, and in particular the poorest of the poor, the dalit women.
The Indian constitution says that every Indian citizen must receive an education, but something like 50 per cent of women generally in India are still illiterate, despite the staggering economic growth, and among dalits it is higher still. Among dalit women, illiteracy is still terrible, with only 28.5 per cent literate. All this highlights the fact that the most demeaning jobs are given to dalit womenin particular the manual scavenging of dry toilets, a dirty and demeaning task performed with only the most primitive implements. Something like 1.3 million dalits are employed in this way, most of them women.
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