'Caste System Threatening Democracy in Birmingham' POLITICS

The Birmingham Post (England), May 8, 2008 | Go to article overview

'Caste System Threatening Democracy in Birmingham' POLITICS


Byline: By Paul Dale Public Affairs Editor

The "disgusting" caste system of the Indian sub-continent is threatening to destroy the credibility of local and national elections in Birmingham, a leading Asian city councillor insisted last night.

Tariq Khan, deputy leader of the council Liberal Democrat group, said "gangster politics" and intimidatory tactics arising from the 'biraderi' clan system were being used to force people, particularly women, to vote against their will in the way dictated by wider families.

He accused Labour of exploiting the caste system in last week's council elections by arranging for supporters to stand at entrances to polling stations to put pressure on Asians to vote for the party.

The council code of conduct states no more than two representatives from each party should be outside a polling station, but Coun Khan said he counted as many as 10 Labour supporters on several occasions in his Washwood Heath ward.

His remarks follow a report last month by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust which warned election fraud driven by immigrants practising "village politics" of the Indian sub-continent could be a crucial factor in deciding the control of Birmingham City Council.

In a 94-page report called Purity of Elections in the UK - Causes for Concern, the trust argued that the UK's election system was at breaking point.

The study, which said numerous convictions for electoral fraud resulted from incidents in inner-city wards where a large concentration of voters originate from the Indian sub-continent, added: "Significantly, these convictions have emerged alongside anecdotal evidence of more widespread, and long-run, practices associated with Pakistani, Kashmiri and Bangladeshi traditions of biraderi (brotherhood) clans influencing voting behaviour.

"It is widely suggested that extended family and kinship networks, frequently with their origins in settlement patterns in Pakistan and Bangladesh, are mobilised to secure the support of up to several hundred electors, effectively constituting a block vote."

Coun Khan said: "The biraderi system is disgusting. …

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