Dharmic Organisations seek redress on hateful tweets by Prof. Priyamvada Gopal, University of Cambridge

Several UK-based Hindu and other Dharmic organisations have issued a joint letter in response to Twitter activity by Professor Priyamvada Gopal of Cambridge University. They have expressed concerns about the implications of Professor Gopal’s statements under relevant criminal law and discrimination law.

The letter has gone out to the Cambridge University, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, the Office for Students, and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, pointing out the legal implications of Professor Gopal’s statements and asking for details about action that they have taken or will take under their respective competences.

On 24 June 2020 at 10.57 am, Professor Priyamvada Gopal, a Professor at the University of Cambridge, issued a tweet which may constitute a hate crime on grounds of race (caste) and religion. The tweet in question reads as follows:

“I’m from a Brahmin family. That makes me a Brahmin. I will say this too then, since Brahmins are the whites of India. Brahmin lives don’t matter– not as *Brahmin& lives. Abolish Brahmins and the upper castes.” That tweet was followed by another offending one at 10.59 am on the same date from the same person stating: “For those at the back: I’m a Brahmin. My Brahmin life does not matter/ Abolish Brahmin-ness.”

These tweets are arguably motivated by hatred of Brahmins and other upper castes, and those from a Hindu background more generally, they are demeaning towards those deemed Brahmins, upper castes and Hindus, they lower people deemed to belong to these categories in the eyes of other persons, and they encourage discrimination, hate, harassment and hate crimes against people identified as such.

They can arguably fall under statutory provisions covering race (caste)-based and religion-based discrimination and hate crimes.

Religion is a recognised part of the anti-discrimination law and the criminal law offences set out below. Caste is recognised as being part of race/ethnicity since the leading case law of Tirkey v Chandhok, in which the EHRC acted as intervenor, and expressly so in the CPS’s Racist and Religious Hate Crime – Prosecution Guidance.

Furthermore, Cambridge University may have breached the Equality Act 2010 for having declared support for Professor Gopal’s actions and for having supported and been complicit in creating an environment in which the following particular provisions (as well as others) of the Equality Act 2010 may have been breached: various subsections of sections 29, 39, 40, 91, 92, 93, and 149.

The University of Cambridge may have further contributed to these breaches by failing to institute disciplinary proceedings against Professor Gopal and instead declaring its support for her on grounds that she was merely expressing her freedom to speak.

The tweets in question may also constitute criminal offences under various criminal law provisions as follows:

  • Malicious Communications Act 1988 for being grossly indecent, aggravated on grounds of race (caste) and religion.
  • Communications Act 2003, section 127, aggravated on grounds of race (caste) and religion.
  • Serious Crime Act 2007, sections 44 to 46, aggravated on grounds of race (caste) and religion.
  • Public Order Act 1986, sections 4A (intentional harassment, alarm or distress), 5 (harassment, alarm or distress), 18 (use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or display of written material to stir up racial (caste) hatred), 19 (publishing or distributing written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting intending to stir up racial (caste) hatred or likely to stir up racial (caste) hatred), 29B (use of threatening words or behaviour or displaying written material which is threatening intending to stir up religious hatred), 29C (publishing or distributing written material which is threatening with intent to stir up religious hatred).

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965) is considered by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to include caste and it informs CPS decisions. The Racist and Religious Hate Crime – Prosecution Guidance now recognises caste and religion as a consideration for prosecution of hate crimes.

List of signatory organisations:

Organisation City
Anti Caste Legislation Committee Leicester
British Hindu Voice Leicester
Dharma Sewa Purvapaksha Leicester
Federation of Hindu Priest (UK) Leicester
Gujarati Arya Association Leicester
Hindutva Abhiyan London
Indian Community Centre N.I. Belfast
ISSO Shree Swaminarayan Temple -Cardiff Cardiff
Jain Animal Sanctuary Croydon
Jain Samaj Europe Leicester
Jalaram Bal Vikas Leicester
Jalaram Mandir Leicester Leicester
Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society London
Shree Prajapati Samaj Leicester Leicester
Shree Sanatan Seva Samaj Hindu Mandir Luton
Shree Shakti Mandir Leicester
The Leicestershire Braham Samaj Leicester
Vrajdham Haveli Harrow
Vrajdham Haveli Leicester
Young Indian Vegetarians Croydon

(Featured image source)


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