LONDON: UK home secretary Priti Patel’s reference to her ministerial job as “sewa” during her speech at the annual Conservative party conference on Tuesday has met with praise and derision on Twitter.
During the speech in Manchester, Patel said, “Our (Conservative party) values embody service before self and this can be neatly defined by the Hindu (sic) word ‘sewa’, which can mean service, commitment and dedication to others. Ensuring the best interests of our country come first is what drives me each and every day. That is my responsibility and that is my service and that is our party. It is because of our commitment to putting the needs of the hard-working silent majority first that I will not tolerate the so-called eco warriors trampling over our way of life,” she said in reference to Extinction Rebellion protesters blocking motorways.
Amandeep Madra, founder of the UK Punjab Heritage Association, tweeted a video of Patel’s “sewa” reference and wrote: “Oi mate, do you speak Hindu”.
Indian-origin Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi quote-tweeted him, saying: “Agree @amanmadra, what language is Hindu? Her comment is just so wrong on so many different levels. No wonder many Sikhs and others are outraged by it! Ministers really ought to be much better briefed about languages and the meaning of words.”
But Anil Bhanot, interfaith director at the Hindu Council UK, told TOI that “sewa” is a Hindu word in the same way “dharma” is, and that Patel had meant to use it. “Sewa is an ancient Hindu concept from the Vedas. It’s selfless service without expectation for any acknowledgment, and is done by Nishkam Karma as Bhagwan Krishna mentions in the Bhagwad Gita. It is a Sanskrit word, not Hindi word. Hindi did not exist then. Sikhs do langar sewa but the concept originated in Hinduism. Many Hindus do sewa,” he said.
Some UK PIOs were delighted that the UK’s first British Indian cabinet minister had highlighted the Hindu concept in her speech.
British Indians Voice tweeted: “#BritishIndians thank Rt Hon Priti Patel for her seva.”
But Indian-origin Labour MP Preet Kaur Gill tweeted: “Compassion is a key part of sewa. Selfless service for the betterment of all mankind. It’s clear @pritipatel does not know the meaning of the word given cuts to universal credit, no plan to protect women, tax rises hitting working families. Cuts to aid and takeover of DFID (Department for International Development).”