Academics and community leaders came together to discuss the issue of caste at a one-day conference held in April 2014. The issue of caste was explored in the context of the caste discrimination legislation now on the statute book in the UK via the Equality Act 2010.
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The conference was co-organised by GLOCUL: The Centre for Culture and Law at Queen Mary University of London, the British Hindu Voice and the British Sikh Consultative Forum and hosted by Oshwal Association of the UK.
The conference examined historical and contemporary dimensions of the caste issue and discussed Indian and Western understandings of caste. It is hoped that outcomes from this constructive discussion will allow the issue to be taken forward to government and other relevant policy making bodies.
Dr Prakash Shah, Reader in Culture and Law at Queen Mary University of London, said: "The conference provided an important gathering point for the exchange of views of leading members of the Indian communities as well as academics researching the caste question.
"A positive result of the conference was that the members of the Indian communities, who have hitherto felt outcasted by the 'secular' academic world, felt validated in their questioning of the propriety of the British legislation on caste and the academics present felt as though their critical arguments on the state of the existing Orientalist scholarship were validated by the members of the Indian communities present. It is hoped that this will be a foundation for a more constructive engagement between the two groups concerning studies of the Indian traditions."