Leicester’s ‘Labour’ Hindu Nationalists

Leicester is a city dominated by the Labour Party, but few of our city’s councillors are socialists, instead they are more akin to the Tories, a problem that was illustrated only last month when Cllr Deepak Bajaj (who represents Evington ward) defected from Labour to join the Conservative Party.

Consistent with such disgusting politics, Cllr Bajaj is an admirer of the authoritarian politics of Narendra Modi, as in 2019 he joined Keith Vaz (the current chairman of Leicester East CLP) and Cllr Rashmikant Joshi (a Labour councillor for North Evington) in celebrating Modi’s latest electoral victory. (Another former Leicester Labour councillor who similarly backs Modi and famously defected to the Tories was Sundip Meghani.)

Cllr Rashmikant Joshi happens to be well known for his charity work, more so than he is for his promotion of the toxic rightwing ideologies associated with Modi’s Indian regime, as he serves as a trustee of the Shree Navdurga Association — a registered charity which states that they “proudly serve the community by helping and supporting those in need.”

Until very recently the chair of the Shree Navdurga Association, Vandevi Pandya, was likewise a Labour councillor who served in the same ward as Cllr Joshi. However, Pandya has just stepped down from this position and Keith Vaz is now attempting to foist a new Hindu nationalist into this ward through the person of Ms Rajul Tejura (with the by-election due to take place on October 13). Ms Tejura was the person who organised the 2019 party celebrating Modi’s election victory with Vaz, Bajaj and Joshi.

Given the media storm that has enveloped Leicester in past weeks, one might wonder why such a vocal Modi supporter like Cllr Joshi has remained so quiet, particularly as he is the Secretary of the board of trustees of the Leicestershire Brahma Samaj, which is the same temple which featured in the news after one of their flags was ripped down amidst rising communal tensions that have been inflamed by the march of 300 Hindu nationalists.

Silence or not, what we can say is that Hindu nationalists seem fond of charity work, and Cllr Joshi is a trustee (and former president) of a highly influential religious group known as the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT); while the current president of the NCHT is Madhu Shastri, who sits alongside Joshi as the chair of the Leicestershire Brahma Samaj. Controversially, in 2017 the NCHT hosted Hindutva extremist Tapan Ghosh at a parliamentary event titled “Tolerating the Intolerant”. As the Guardian reported:

Seated beside the Conservative member for Harrow East, Bob Blackman, [at the NCHT event] Ghosh told the crowd Hindus were having “their daughters and sisters snatched away by what is called love jihad”. Love jihad is an unfounded but widely held belief on the Hindu right that Muslim men are engaged in an organised campaign to seduce and marry Hindu women.”

During this hate-promoting visit to the UK, it was appropriate that Ghosh met up with Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the far-right English Defence League (see his interview below).

Cllr Roshi’s former religious compatriot in promoting Hindu nationalism was Satish K. Sharma, the former General Secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples. However, during the 2019 General Election Sharma ended up getting suspended from his leadership role, perhaps because of his determined advocacy on behalf of the Conservative Party. As you might expect, Sharma’s Hindutva activism continues to flourish outside the confines of his former charitable home, and earlier today he hosted a so-called “Public inquiry into Leicester violence against British Hindus” (which can be viewed on YouTube here).

Finally, it is worth recalling the small but important role that Cllr Joshi played in a coordinated attempt to help the Labour Party lose the 2019 General Election, as he was one of the six Labour councillors from Leicester to write to the then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to “express their ‘deep and overwhelming anger about the direction the Labour Party is moving in in respect of the Hindu community’ with many people now seeing it as anti-Indian.” The five other signatories to this letter were Cllr Ratilal Govind, Cllr Hemant Bhatia, Cllr Nita Solanki, Cllr Padmini Chamund, and Cllr Mahendra Valand (the last three being Labour councillors for Belgrave).

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One comment

  1. It’s interesting that the 6 councillors faced no sanction from the council Labour group or the regional Labour Party for refusing to support or campaign for the Labour candidate in Leicester East nor having issued a public statement specifically disowning the Labour candidate. In effect they were actually encouraging voters to vote for a Hindu, which meant the Tory candidate.

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