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The Fruits of Difficult InterFaith Conversations -

The Fruit of Difficult InterFaith Conversations - 100 Exiled Sikhs can return to their homeland in Punjab.

 

"Genuine InterFaith Dialogue is not only vital to community cohesion but it may be THE critical area which will deliver or deny a peaceful 21st Century. It is the hardest space to work in but for those with motives based upon true seva and the courage to recognise that they may not have all the answers, the rewards can be pivotal as this news shows." Satish K Sharma, General Secretary, NCHT(UK)

The news that 100 Sikhs, who were exiled by the Congress government following Operation Bluestar, can now visit their families and their Punjabi homeland is a testament to the force for good which genuine InterFaith can be. The NCHT(UK) places on record its deep appreciation for the courageous visionaries in the British Sikh community who took a risk in extending their hands and supporting our "Dharma Rising" initiative and for welcoming Dr Swamy into the Hounslow Gurudwara for a ground breaking seminar. Their vision has begun to be realised today with the removal by the BJP Government of India, of the ban on 100 exiled Sikhs.

The premier Indian news portal pgurus.com yesterday announced:-

 

"It all started with Dr. Swamy’s visit to the UK in 2015, flying on the winds of great expectations and anticipation. A series of events organised by Satish Sharma of gss 04 smlVHS-UK as part of the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHTUK) called ‘Dharma Rising’, gave oxygen to the masses to engage in productive, positive debate reflecting upon issues ranging from interfaith dialogue, relationships between India and the UK, the British General Election and the Indian Diaspora."

 

The series of events took place at venues in London, Slough, and Birmingham. In a dramatic gesture of goodwill between the Hindu and Sikh community, co-ordinated by Dr Jasdev Singh Rai and the Trustees of the British Sikh Consultative Forum, and the Trustees of the NCHT(UK) supported by the Trustees and Management Committee of the Hounslow Sri Guru Granth Sahib Gurudwara, Dr. Swamy became the first Indian politician to be welcomed in any Gurdwara in the West since 1984. Also present was Sr Raghbir Singh of the DamDami Taksal.

It's undeniable that the meeting commenced with an almost palpable air of distrust and suspicion, of unrecognised suffering and injustice. The presence of courageous Hindu and Sikh community leaders ensured that a "safe container" was maintained within which the most uncomfortable and sensitve issues could be explored and understood. When the seminar and meeting concluded a cordial, mutually respectful atmosphere prevailed. Dr Swamy had made a commitment to take back the wishes of all community members present in the gathering and to press for, amongst other needs, freedom to return for exiled Sikhs.

With the determination which is a hallmark of Dr Swamyji's campaigning, Dr Swamy lobbied the Indian Government, continued meetings with members of the Sikh Community globally as well as in India, where he met Sr Jasbir Singh Rode of the DamDami Taksal and succeeded in commencing the process of reconciliation. Today one of the wounds inflicted upon the Sikh diaspora has begun to heal.

 

dss gw langarsmlOn reflection there were many reasons for the meeting not to have happened. Many raucous voices objected to Dr Swamy visiting the UK, claiming everything from "Hindu Fundamentalism" due to his BJP membership, of "Islamaphobia" because of his Ram Temple campaign and many other ad hominem attacks. He was prevented from speaking at Oxford University, there were complaints to the Charity Commission alleging that his visit was politically motivated etc etc but the meetings continued and due to the courage of the Sikh and Hindu community organisations and the spirit of genuine interfaith dialogue, the paradigm has today shifted.

 

 

 

Noteworthy was the observation regarding the social media hype, made by one of the young Hindu volunteers at the time - "No ltr sikhone is focussing on the important matters being discussed, why are they criticising the people and not challenging the facts being discussed?" It is clear that in addition to the many good people and leaders of all faiths who do wish to improve our British communites and strengthen our inter community ties, there are equally very vocal voices who do not wish to see inter and intra faith harmony improving. They can usually be identified by their use of ad hominem attacks and they themselves pose the greatest threat to a harmonious, integrated tranquil multi cultural society, one comprised of diverse voices and history's, maintaining their diversity, but learning to live with each other, for each other.

The Trustees of the NCHT(UK) who are followers of the Dharmic principles of Satya (Reality), Jnana (Wisdom), Ahimsa (Non Violence), Shanti (Tranquility) recognise that the "appearance of InterFaith dialogue" (known as chai samosa InterFaith or fake InterFaith) is easy and comfortable but has not delivered what Britain so desperately needs. It is clear that the British people desperately need authentic InterFaith, which like Dharma, requires honest engagement and dialogue. With the support of courageous leaders of all faiths and traditions, and with the patronage of equally courageous Parliamentarians such as Dr Subramanian Swamy MP, Bob Blackman MP and Seema Malhotra MP, we hope to continue to see more successful "Hard Talk initiatives" emerging from all communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Press Statement - Tolerating the Intolerant

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Following on from the hugely succesful event, we have received requests for comment from the Sun, Buzzfeed and from Middle Eastern Eye. In response to the following questions we have published the following reply.

 

The subject of the event was Tolerating the Intolerant - the abuse of  Hindu Human Rights in Europe and in India. A core subject was the sustained targeting and abuse of Hindu and Sikh girls .. their selection on the basis of their religion and their subsequent physical and emotional abuse for the purposes of forced conversion to Islam. This phenomenon has been reported here in the UK but has also been a major problem in India and most especially in West Bengal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Mr Ghosh has a great deal of support from the Bengali Muslim community in India who too find the targeting of vulnerable girls abhorrent and completely unIslamic.

 

Evidence was presented at the event which showed that

  • In 21st century Europe the majority of European nations do not accept the Dharmic traditions as state recognised religions including Belgium, the home of the European Parliament. This is religious discrimination.
  • That 49 million Hindus are missing from Bangladesh and
  • that the grooming of Hindu & Sikh vulnerable girls is occurring on an "industrial scale", with these girls then being channelled into lives of crime, prostitution and trafficking.

 

We are disappointed that despite the above, the focus of one segment of the media is on the tweets made by a grass roots activist, who may be guilty of intemperate language, allowing for difference in vocabulary and regional nuance, but he is certainly not guilty of crimes against vulnerable girls nor of blatant institutional discrimination.

 

In addition we are working directly with British Imams who have come forward and are keen to see the rights of vulnerable women of all religions protected. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss this with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and equally we are working with Sikh community leaders, who also attended the event and who are deeply concerned at this phenomenon, one which has been causing disharmony within our British multi faith communities for decades.

Many victims are unable to come forward because of the cultural importance of family honour and this issue needs to be brought to light so that victims can be encouraged to come forward and be helped to recover their self esteem and dignity.

tolerance02You will have noted that even Pakistani Politician Imran Khan (https://www.dawn.com/news/1365958)  has commented on the prevalence of this violent strategy which is destructive of community cohesion and harmony. Presumably Mr Khan is not an Islamophobe. Mr Ghosh has been working at grass roots level in India and his organisation has successfully helped to re rehabilitate over 300 such trauma victims,  and he was invited to provide data, photographic evidence and witness testimony and statistics to inform parliamentarians of the ground reality and to submit this data to the forthcoming Report on Religion Based Human Rights Violations of Hindus.

 

As Hon Bob Blackman stated in Parliament:-

“... I thank the Hon. Lady for notifying me that she was going to raise this point of order. She has inadvertently misled the House. Let me be clear: I did not invite Tapan Ghosh to the House of Commons. I hosted, in my capacity as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for British Hindus, two functions last Wednesday, which Tapan Ghosh attended. One was the annual Diwali celebration on the House of Commons Terrace, which a number of hon. and right hon. Members attended. Subsequently, in the evening, we had the launch by the National Council of Hindu Temples of a report into Hindu minority rights in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Tapan Ghosh was invited by the National Council of Hindu Temples to attend that meeting and present evidence of physical attacks, rapes, forced marriages and forced conversions that have taken place in West Bengal and other places.

I have made clear, and the National Council of Hindu Temples has made clear, that it was only in that capacity—as presenting that evidence—that that individual was invited to this House. He made no abhorrent remarks at the meeting, and I am quite clear that I and the National Council of Hindu Temples do not agree with the views he previously stated. We do not accept them, and we do not endorse them in any shape or form, but it is right that this House has the opportunity, and that Members have the opportunity, to hear evidence from people of what is happening in other countries.”

It’s clear that people who raise this thorny issue are wholly inappropriately and maliciously labelled by certain members of “the left” and their apologists, as ‘Islamophobes’ or ‘racists’. We saw this with the recent sacking of Sarah Champion from the Shadow Cabinet, who bravely spoke out against the disproportionate number of Pakistani Muslim heritage males being convicted in sexual grooming gang cases where the girls were of disproportionately high non-muslim origin. The truth is as in Mr Ghosh’s case, that this trend is nothing but an orchestrated mechanism to shut down those who presume to speak inconvenient truths. We are unaware of the other allegations and remarks you refer to and if there is truth in them, we reject them without reservation.

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Cows, Currency, God & Mammon

The renowned Spanish philosopher George Santayana, said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s a sage bit of advice that British civil servants and government departments have decided to ignore in this 21st century.

 

 

 

Just over 150 years ago India had a standing army of 253,000 soldiers made up of Hindu, Sikh and Muslims commanded by a handful of British officers. It was formed to protect the interests of the East India Company, which then ruled India from the City of London via a vast network of civil servants and its own army. At the time this was the largest standing army in the world, and it would, in the two world wars of the 20th century, serve the Empire well, its soldiers displaying remarkable acts of courage and sacrifice.

 

In 1857 however, in a gross display of disrespect for the men of India who served them, the commanding officers put it about that the cartridges they used were coated with cow or pig fat. To use the cartridge a soldier would have to bite the end off before pouring the gunpowder into the barrel of the rifle, requiring their mouths to come in contact with the pig or cow fat.

 

For any army to work, trust is required: those giving the orders need to be trusted by those receiving them. It was well-known that for the Hindus to make this kind of contact with a cow was completely unacceptable, and that for Muslims such contact with a pig was equally unacceptable. Therefore, the only rationale for lacing the cartridges with tallow in that way, or spreading the rumour that they were so laced, was to denigrate the sepoys (the term used to describe the local Indian soldiers). This led the devout Brahmin Mangal Pandey to take the first steps of armed resistance to the British Rule which in turn led, in 1857, to the First War of Independence on the Indian sub-continent as the soldiers mutinied. British history books refer to it as ‘the ‘Great Indian Mutiny’. Whichever side of history you stand on, it was not a proud moment in British colonial history, nor in military history, and led ultimately to the Colonialists being ejected from India and the collapse of the British Empire.

 

In the 150 years since, it is to be hoped that we have learned from these experiences. But it seems not. Last year the new British £5 note was issued in a polymer which was contaminated with beef tallow, once again harming Hindu British subjects who have to handle these notes. Although they are not slaves, the British Hindu community of 2% of the population, contributing 6% GDP are at the very least, reliable "economic sepoys, foot soldiers". 

 

The oldest of the worlds' great religious traditions, Hinduism is the only one that worships the Divine equally in both the masculine and feminine. Our agrarian forefathers offered the bull as a symbol of divine righteousness (the male principle), while the cow is a symbol of divine nurturing (the feminine principle). We now, centuries later, still embrace these symbols and hold them close to our hearts to remind us of the path laid out for us by these complementary forces. To handle something from a slaughtered cow would be to insult the Divine Mother, the principle of nurturing and the loving provision of nature. No aware and mindful Hindu will willingly or voluntarily do it.

 

Did the departments of the Bank of England and the government that allowed this polymer to be used in the new £5 note simply lack an historical perspective? Quite possibly. But I cannot help but wonder whether the civil servants who decided to go ahead with this project actually knew the history and used the polymer anyway, not in the hope of getting away with it ~ that has become impossible in our networked, information driven world ~ but rather to see how far they could carry the insult this time. Or perhaps, I muse, was it a homage from the Bank of England to that successful British joint-stock company of old, the East India Company, that amassed India’s vast wealth and funnelled it home for the Empire for 200 years?

 

No war will begin over this £5 note but memories are stirred and old half-forgotten insults again taste bitter in the mouth. The fact is that there are currently approximately 817,000 Hindus in the UK, about 2% of the population, for whom this note is abhorrent; it is similarly so for the 542,000 vegans in the country. Hence an online petition against the new £5 note has rapidly garnered over 130,000 signatures. This was condemned by the polymer’s inventor, Australian Prof. David Solomon, as ‘stupid’. I wonder if the commanding officers of the sepoys were mouthing a similar opinion when that first War of Independence began in Meerut, in Northern India.

 

Sensitivity, empathy, mutual respect and even courtesy have, in our time, indeed become seen as ‘stupid’. Crass, thoughtless and callous responses now seem to be routine and acceptable. But is that really how we want to live? Is that really going to lead to a better life for all of us? The image of Winston Churchill which first appeared on the £5.00 serves for the British as a nostalgic reminder of a great wartime leader, but for Hindus he carries a different legacy. This same man was directly responsible as recently as 1943 for the deaths of at least 6 million Hindus in the Bengal Famines (which in some quarters earned him the moniker of the Butcher of Bengal  - ref Churchills Crimes against Humanity). The same Churchill who remarked in judgement of the civilisation which gave the world, Yoga, Ayurveda, Mathematics and Sanskrit -  "I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion."  It is a tribute to Hindu tolerance that no Hindus objected to the face of Churchill gracing the national currency, but to now deliberately add Tallow to the same note seems to be more than just insensitive, suggesting that the Colonialists innate sense of bludgeoning superiority lives on in Threadneedle Street.

 

According to the speaker of the Sermon on the Mount  "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon." We all know Mammon has something to do with money.  But the word he uses here is not the common word for money.  Mammon means unjust gain, greed, or money made an end in itself, an ultimate value, a controlling force.  

 

"Some people use money to provide for their family.  Others sell out their family, their country, their integrity . . . for money.  This is where money becomes Mammon, a relentless god that demands that all bow before it and offer sacrifice."

 

boe dg k sks01

Karin Ridgers of VeggieTV, Doug Maw who initiated the 130,000 signature petition and Satish K Sharma of the NCHT(UK) outside the Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, for their meeting with Victoria Cleland, Chief Cashier.

 

On 15th February 2017 the Bank of England published a statement announcing that " Weighing the considerations below, the Bank has now concluded that it would be appropriate to keep the £5 polymer note in circulation and to issue the £10 polymer note as planned, in September." (Bank of England Statement).

 

In a nutshell this means that the Bank has decided that although the £20.00 notes are possibly not "fit for purpose", the existing £5.00 notes can continue in circulation, the existing paper £5.00 notes will be withdrawn in May 2017 and additional polymer £10.00 notes will be introduced in September as planned.

So, having recieved and considered the concerns raised by members of the public with the utmost seriousness the Bank of England has decided upon this course of action. Embarking upon a complete "flight of fancy" for a moment, what course of action could the bank have taken if it had chosen to act with disdain and utter disregard for the opinions of the Vegan, Vegetarian, Hindu Sikh & Jain communities as well as human-rights minded members of the public? Purely hypothetically of course... it may have chosen to completely disregard all concerns and objections and decided to leave the £5.00 notes in circulation, withdraw the existing £5.00 paper supply and to introduce the £10.00 notes as planned. Perhaps Timothy's words provide the most appropriate guidance in seeking to know the heart of a person or institution, "by their works shall ye know them".

 

In one of the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Katha Upanishad, we are given a teaching which reminds us that at every step we are presented with having to make a choice between two paths "Shreyas and Preyas". In the words of Swami Ambikananda Saraswatiji "Whether you are enlightened or foolish, there is a crossroad in front of you at every moment. You can either choose the Preyas response, the old knee jerk response which is always driven by self protectionism, self gratification, self enjoyment and self promotion or the Shreyas response, which is the contemplation-supported choice which serves the well being of all of creation, even if at cost to ones' own comfort and welfare. The teachings of Dharma unequivocally support the choice which challenges the production of these notes, the choice which challenges the view that a living being has value only in its utility as a "polymer source", which challenges the notion that the cost argument automatically outweighs all other arguments and most importantly, the choice which protects the freedom to determine what our bodies can and cannot come into contact with in our dealings with the providers of public services and their products and services.

 

Therefore and most unfortunately, the NCHT(UK) has no option but to seek legal protection against this impostion upon the "Shreyas guided" members of the Hindu, Sikh Jain and Dharmic traditions, as well as upon the vegetarian and vegan communities of the UK. 

 

All mindful British Hindus stand at the crossroads of Shreyas and Preyas, and with every donation at a temple, or every aashirwaad (blessing) given to a new married couple, or every blessing conveyed by a gift of money given to a grandchild, the choice will have to be made again and again. The next time that PM Theresa May visits a Hindu temple she too will have to make this choice before contemplating making a symbolic donation, and since great importance is placed upon Indo British Trade in a post Brexit Britain, payments made in a morally, religiously and ethically tainted currency may well acquire a totally different "bhavana" sentiment.

 

The Bank of England and some Hindu organisations have already made the choice of Preyas, the easy expedient, "lets be nice and garner false appreciation and friendship" at the highest levels, but the NCHT(UK), Doug Maw, Karin Ridgers, and 130,000 signatories feel obliged to make the choice of Shreyas, to serve the global holistic, Dharmic and compassionate "good".

 

The Bank of England's own website declares that the Bank’s mission is to promote the good of the people of the United Kingdom by maintaining monetary and financial stability.. all of us succumb to confusion from time to time and perhaps a gentle reminder will suffice, before a legal reminder becomes necessary.

 

Pt Satish K Sharma

(with affectionate gratitude to Swami Ambikananda Saraswatiji for her contribution)

 

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£1.65m - The British Price of Equality and Moral Values

Press Note – 10th August 2017

The Bank of England announced its decision regarding the use of tallow in pound notes as follows:-

"The Bank is today, Thursday 10 August, announcing that after careful and serious consideration and extensive public consultation there will be no change to the composition of polymer used for future banknotes. The new polymer £20 note and future print runs of £5 and £10 notes will continue to be made from polymer manufactured using trace amounts of chemicals, typically less than 0.05%, ultimately derived from animal products.

(The full statement can be found here)

 

The decision by the Bank of England to take no heed of the contributions of 88% of respondents who submitted details of a value based position to the Bank, although not unexpected, is disappointing. The Banks decision is based upon what is offered as “value for money”, itself a strange concept in the context of the production of money, but we are deeply concerned that the Bank has chosen its own perspective in determining what is deemed as “value” and has completely ignored what is perceived as value by those not limited to the materialistically bounded perspective of a Central Bank.

The Bank has determined that there is a monetary value to the ethics and morals of a rapidly increasing number of British citizens i.e. the vegan and vegetarian community, and also of the religious and spiritual values of the members of the Dharmic traditions who view all of life as one family.

The Bank of England has stated that it has taken account of the Equality legislation but what it has in essence done is established that the spirit of Equalities legislation in the UK does in fact carry a price tag and a level at which the spirit of human rights which is enshrined in Equality legislation, becomes “unaffordable”, a paltry £1.65m per annum for a decade. Has Great Britain become so poor?

It is undisputed that until this decision, currency was a neutral medium of exchange of value and its use did not physically, emotionally nor intellectually cause any conflict in the hands of the citizens and although the decision satisfies the value systems of bankers and lawyers, they are not the custodians of society’s evolving values, its morality and the increasing sense of connectedness with the Earth and all of life. 

From this perspective they appear to have forgotten that the sole function of currency is facilitating the attainment of prosperity, happiness and tranquil existence through exchange of values, values which are not only confined to numbers on bank statements and promissory notes.

Some traditions will not use the proceeds of gambling, being attuned to the corruption such activities introduce into society, playing upon and exploiting human vulnerabilities and other traditions have learned that it is possible to corrupt human well-being as well as our relationship with other beings, when we undervalue their right to life and existence. 

These are wisdom principles acquired over many generations and the argument that 0.05% is acceptable is seen to be grossly devoid of the perception of the nature of moral principles and surprising in its lack of relevance to the core issues. If a human finger were to fall into the production line of 100,000 bars of chocolate at which quantity level would it become “cost effective” to permit it? 0.05%? This shallow logic is deeply flawed.

The decision of the Bank establishes that there is a cost based rationale upon which these decisions can be made - the previous example establishes the falsehood of this line of thinking. If it were simply down to molecules and percentages, we could justify the repulsive suggestion that human cadavers also contain the same constituents and on precisely the same basis are eligible for industrial utility. It is not a monetary decision which prevents us from making this choice, it is something far deeper and many feel the same level of repulsion when applied to other sentient beings. It is disappointing that this dimension of understanding appears to be valueless and still absent from the Bank of England’s view of existence.

For many Hindus Sikhs and Jains, and for vegans and vegetarians as well, the spirit of all monetary transactions will be tainted to varying degrees and the donations and monetary activities of our Hindu Temples will be now be felt to be polluted on a moral and emotional level and we did hope that the Bank would recognise the seriousness of this decision. To taint spiritual moral and religious transactions, the values which help us to connect with our own Divinity and the Divinity in all of life, is a costly choice.

For many Karma is an inescapable principle, Hindus recognise that karma exists at an individual level, a family level, a societal level and a national level. We will do what we can to mitigate the ill effects of this choice and will continue to work also to assist the Bank of England to recognise that in its capacity to harm and hinder societies' non fiscal values, it is more than a mere printing press.

Please add your voice to the petition raised by Doug Maw which has already attracted over 140,000 signatures by clicking here Petition

 

Pt Satish K Sharma B.Sc. (Hons) Econ MBCS FRSA
General Secretary, National Council of Hindu Temples (UK)

Chair, British Board of Hindu Scholars

Chair, City of London InterFaith

www.nchtuk.org

When Currency becomes Bad karma ...

 

5poundtallow sml

 

 

Latest Update - Cows, Currency, God and Mammon

A Hindu versed in in the traditions of his ancestors, opens his or her eyes  in the morning, the first word being spoken with gratitude, devotion and humility is Aum. The second action is to start the day with the prayer ,

Samudra vasane Devi, parvata stAna mandate.
Vishnu patni namastubhyam,
paada sparsham kshamasva me.


O! Mother Earth, who has the ocean as clothes and mountains and forests as her body, who is the wife of Lord Vishnu, I bow to you. Please forgive me for touching you with my feet.

 

 

 

With this attitude to all of life and the Mother Earth itself, conscious Hindus strive to take only the minimum needed for us to safely and successfully complete our time on this earth. In principle taking more than is necessary, is considered an act of violence, causing harm or suffering in the process of taking is also an act of greater violence. Depriving any creature of life when it is wholly unnecessary, is the greatest act of violence and the soul which resides in all creatures is caused to suffer.

From the Hindu and Dharmic perspective, producing currency and casually incorporating substances which are derived from acts of violence upon vulnerable non aggressive creatures is not the behaviour of gentle civilised beings. It is not something easily countenanced by Hindus and we feel the pain of the creatures who were killed in this process. The £5.00 note ceases to be a simple medium of exchange but becomes a medium for communicating pain and suffering and we would not want to come into contact with it.  Hindu temples are centres of positive holistic compassionate humanity and we can fully understand that Hindu Temples would consider that they wish to remain free of a symbol of the wholesale barbaric slaughter of tranquil, vulnerable and fully sentient beings.

We are very comfortable that this has happened without any malicious intent but merely out of ignorance and a lack of sensitivity and knowledge and it seems that steps are being taken to ensure that this error is corrected. We look forward to being able to identify which notes are contaminated and learning of their prompt withdrawal and replacement with “Karma free notes”.

 

As a historical aside, there is a precedent which it may be worth recalling, the Mangal Pandey inspired Revolution of 1857. Mangal Pandey, a devout Brahmin serving with the British Indian Army discovered that the cartridges used with the Enfield rifle were constructed using the same substance as these £5.00 notes, tallow made from beef and pork. The ensuing revolution has been called the First Indian Revolution (or the Sepoy mutiny by the colonialists) and helped to focus such a sense of national identity that many remark that that it created the wave of anti British rhetoric which coalesced in the expulsion of the Colonialists and ultimately the demise of the British Empire. Could an adharmic £5.00 be an equally expensive mistake? Time will tell.

 

For further reading

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/04/east-india-company-original-corporate-raiders

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/New-%C2%A35-note-sparks-ire-among-vegetarians-religious-communities/article16730828.ece

 

 

 

 

 

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