Keep open the possibility of hate crime, says Labour MP

Vidya Ram London | Updated on November 14, 2018

FILE PHOTO- British Labour MP Virendra Sharma   -  THE HINDU

British Labour MP Virendra Sharma has urged the police to consider whether two recent robberies in Hindu temples here should be considered hate crimes.

His comment follows a break-in at Shree Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple in Kenton, Harrow, on Tuesday and another at the Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Willesden last week during which three Hare Krishna murtis were stolen.

Sharma, the Labour MP for Southall, told BusinessLine that as the investigation by the police proceeded, he wanted them to keep open the possibility that this was a hate crime and not a simple burglary. “I would urge them, once they find out who is behind it, that they do not ignore that side as a possibility,” he said on Wednesday. On Tuesday, in the House of Commons, Sharma asked British Justice Minister David Gauke whether the cases will be treated as hate crimes and not ignored by police as they “targeted people of one faith.”

“Given the way society is developing, given the way some sections of society are going around and spreading hatred and intolerance, I strongly feel that people should keep open that possibility,” Sharma said. Alongside rising incidents of hate crimes towards Muslims, he pointed to a new World War I monument of a Sikh soldier that was vandalised last week, which is being treated by police as “racially aggravated criminal damage.”

“Those specific cases will be a matter for the police and for the Crown Prosecution Service. But if activity of this sort is targeted on the basis of religious belief, that is completely unacceptable, and I am sure that the whole House is united in condemning it,” Gauke told MPs regarding the incidents at the temples.

The Hindu Council UK expressed its concern at the incidents and urged all Hindu temples in the country to be vigilant, and ensure security systems were in place and in working condition. Sanjay Jagatia, the council’s Director Secretary General, urged UK authorities to ensure that if it were proven that the break-ins were racially motivated, that they were treated as hate crime.

“The police need to provide advice to all temples on any security improvements, to prevent further recurrence,” said Conservative MP Bob Blackman.

Published on November 14, 2018

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