Diwali celebrations disrupted by Brent Council
London Evening Standard - January 7th 2003
As we return to work after the end of the festive season, Londoners should spare a thought for the capital's Hindu community. The major Hindu festival, Diwali, will be disrupted this year because of the actions of Brent Council.
Hindus from all over the capital and throughout Europe visit Brent's Neasden Temple to celebrate Diwali and the Hindu New Year. For 12 years, they have used Gibbons Recreation Ground for 10 days a year for car parking, during which time there has never been a single accident or incident. However, reneging on statements made before the local elections, Brent Council now refuse to let this use continue.
This would severely disrupt access to the Temple during Diwali and the Hindu New Year. We take the celebration of Christmas for granted, but we should respect the minority communities who wish to observe their own major religious festivals. Brent should agree to the plan put forward by local Conservatives, with the support of the Hindu community and many others, which would allow parking to continue for 10 days per year, subject to the Temple paying reasonable rent and repair costs.
A petition with 14,295 signatures and a peaceful demonstration of 200,000 has shown the strength of feeling on this issue. Brent Council should start listening and let this major London event go ahead without disruption.
Theresa Villiers MEP for London
Dr Charles Tannock MEP for London