05 March, 2013


Vijay and Amardeep Begraj worked in a law firm in Coventry, he as practice manager, she as a solicitor. They claimed unfair dismissal against their employer, Heer Manak, on grounds of caste discrimination, in that Amardeep was from the Jat caste whereas her husband Begraj was a Dalit, or untouchable as they used to be known. They had married across the caste boundaries.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case (the judge, who goes by the splendid name of Merry Cocks, stood down, apparently after a visit from the police) it is deeply regrettable, although not unimaginable, that caste differences should have made their way to Britain.

Now Lord Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, has tabled an amendment to a Bill going through the House of Lords, which would make it illegal to discriminate on grounds of caste, as it is illegal on grounds of gender, ethnic background, religion, sexuality and so on.

The statement from the spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (how could we make a saving here?) was rather interesting. He said 'We do not believe that introducing specific caste based legislation is the best way to tackle the incidents of caste-based prejudice and discrimination that have been identified'. Apparently the government will rely on education.

Now, as it happens, I did not believe, when the Racial Discrimination Act was passed in the 1970s, that legislation was the right way to go about this. I'm not sure about 'education' but I believe a culture of tolerance has grown up in the UK in spite of the legislation. I felt the same when it was extended to homosexuals, people with big noses and that tribe which worships the Duke of Edinburgh. Battering people with bien pensant legislation, forcing them to behave as the State would want is, to me, a retrograde step, not a progressive one.

Now it seems the Government agrees. Will we see an end to the reams of ineffective laws, to the thought police who want to regulate our every whim?

Don't hold your breath.

Good luck to Mr and Mrs Begraj, who are apparently too short of money to have a retrial.

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