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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006, 02:18 GMT 03:18 UK
UK Hindus appeal for recognition
By Emily Buchanan
BBC world affairs correspondent

A Hindu couple
Hindus feel the government has taken them for granted
Hindus living in Britain feel they are ignored while other groups are being listened to, a survey claims.

The survey commissioned by the Hindu Forum of Britain questioned 700 Hindus online and conducted phone interviews and focus groups.

It also found that most Hindus do not like being called Asian, preferring the religious label Hindu.

Britain's 500,000 Hindus are the country's third largest religious group, after Christians and Muslims.

The survey of Hindus in Britain, written by the Runnymede Trust, is due to be launched by communities secretary Ruth Kelly on Tuesday.

Taken for granted

Behind the peaceful exterior there is an undercurrent of growing frustration in British Hindu communities.

Chandu Mattani came to Leicester from Zambia 30 years ago and he now runs a sari and music shop in the Belgrave Road - known as the Golden Mile because of its role in regenerating Leicester's economy.

His generation has been patient and well-integrated but even he wonders whether Hindus should now be more assertive.

The youth will become militant if the authorities don't address their needs
Vinod Popat

"We don't request loudly - those who shout, they get what they want."

The relative success and industriousness of Hindus is now being questioned by the second and third generations.

They feel government has taken them for granted for too long.

Priti Raichura is a member of the Hindu Youth Forum.

"We've offered a lot to the British economy, we've worked extra hours, we've not taken handouts like some other groups and we want recognition for that - we want the government to call us British Hindus."

For years the large number of immigrants to Leicester from the sub-continent were called Asian, but that collective Asian identity just does not fit anymore.

Increasingly Hindus are saying they don't want to be under the same ethnic umbrella. They want to be recognised for their distinct contribution to Britain.

A big grievance is over public funding and support.

Provoking conflict

In Leicester Muslims can be buried in their own cemetery within 24 hours to fit in with their religious requirements, while Hindus have been asking for their own crematorium for 20 years.

Hindu temple in Neasden, London
The government should be mindful of the way Hindus feel marginalised
Steve White

Vinod Popat, who runs Midlands Asian TV, feels that the older, politer generation is in danger of losing control of the youth, if nothing is done now to listen to Hindu demands.

"The youth will become militant if the authorities don't address their needs," he said.

So as Hindus begin to flex their political muscle, they realise they need to be seen as a separate faith group and not confused with Muslims.

It is an extremely sensitive issue.

One man who has worked for community cohesion in Leicester for 20 years, Steve White, said there was a danger of provoking community conflict if one group felt ignored.

"The government should be mindful of the way Hindus feel marginalised."

But he also feels Hindus must not go too far down the road of a separate faith identity, in case they also lose their ability to integrate well into society.

The government has responded, saying the report raises important issues, and it praises the Hindu contribution to society.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hindus speak about their treatment in the UK



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