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Last updateFri, 13 Mar 2015 4pm

#Influence: New think tank aims to lobby Westminster on behalf of UK's Dharmic communities

A newly established think tank is aiming to address concerns faced by British members of Dharmic faiths of the East - Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.

The Dharmic Ideas and Policy Foundation (DIPF) was launched earlier this month at an event attended by Conservative MP Bob Blackman, chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus.

As the countdown continues to what is set to be the most fractious General Election in living memory, the DIPF aims to facilitate better understanding of the communities it represents which are among the most influential in Great Britain. 

Speaking at the launch of DIPF at the House of Commons, Mr Blackman pledged his support for the initiative.

"The Dharmic faiths have contributed massively to the very life of this country.  They have succeeded in all sectors but have often been limited when it came to political engagement", Mr Blackman said. 

"DIPF is a great idea that brings the wealth of talent from the Dharmic communities to engage directly within the political arena thereby enhancing the quality of debate for the whole of society.  I welcome this initiative and give it my full support", he added.

Dr Gautam Sen, co-Director of DIPF, said the foundation was inspired by similar organizations within other minority ethnic communities which lobby government to address challenges faced by those communities.

"The need for a Think Tank on Policy has come about after 5 years of work by a number of individuals and organisations in trying to address the various challenges the Dharmic communities face in the UK. For this we have looked at how, for example, the Jewish and the Muslim communities deal with similar challenges", said Dr. Sen.

Faced with the distinct possibility that the next administration in Westminster will be another Coalition, both the Conservatives and Labour have been scrambling to appeal to the ethnic minority vote, one which many experts feel will be a decisive factor come May 7th.

Speaking at the DIPF launch, its chairman Nath Puri, laid out those characteristics that will appeal to both major parties: “The Dharmic communities need to work to their strengths to harness their natural characteristics of entrepreneurship, openness and diversity to make positive contributions in all areas and walks of British life”, Mr Puri said.

Research by DIPF has revealed that an effective process by which Dharmic communities can influence policy was virtually non-existent.

"Most National Organisations in the name of being apolitical refrain from any involvement with the lobbying efforts at the policy level. This poses problems as ultimately the policy influences our entire Dharmic community.  There is a need for organisations and activists to realise how there is an urgent need to have a better understanding of issues affecting the Dharmic community", said Mukesh Naker, communications officer for DIPF.

To begin with, DIPF plans to host regular seminars, which will be open to the public, as well as engaging with leading public figures on critical policy matters.

The think tank will also publish a bi-annual bulletin.

Faith-based community groups have welcomed the establishment of an umbrella organization. 

Trupti Patel, President of the Hindu Forum of Britain said: "At a time when all the communities are negotiating their manifestos and spelling out their expectations, we are pleased to have the DIPF to add weight to our efforts. 

"We have been working tirelessly to address key issues such as grooming and the impact of the Trojan horse scandal at the grassroots level.  We hope that the work of DIPF will help the Dharmic organisations and grass roots make a more informed decision when the vote in May 2015."

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