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Retired Indian-origin Major in UK returns honour in protest

LONDON: A retired Indian-origin soldier-turned-politician in the UK has returned his Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in protest against what he feels is the misuse of the honour system by former prime minister David Cameron.

Major Narindar Saroop (retired), who was born in India and went on to serve in the British Indian Army before moving to the UK, was awarded the CBE in 1982 by Queen Elizabeth II on the recommendation of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The 87-year-old has the distinction of being the very first Conservative party candidate of South Asian origin to contest a general election back in 1979.

However, the Tory party member and former London councillor now feels Cameron showed “demeaning contempt” for the honours system by recommending less deserving people as part of his so-called resignation list, when he left Downing Street following Britain’s vote in favour of Brexit on June 23.

“Cameron’s list, in my view, included a lot of people who were undeserving of what they were given. Prime Ministers like Harold Wilson and James Callaghan gave honours to their advisers, but many were very hard-working individuals. But in Cameron’s list, some of the names were only there a couple of years,” Saroop told the ‘Evening Standard’ newspaper.

He had written to the UK’s honours department at St James’s Palace in London to explain his decision earlier this month.

He described the move as a “futile cavalry charge” but said he felt he had to “make a point”.

“There is little wrong with our honours system. It is the demeaning contempt for it as practised by [Tony] Blair and Cameron which has led to such disenchantment about an otherwise honourable institution,” he wrote in his letter.

“Mr Cameron, often with some pride, indicated that he was the heir to Blair. This is now fully vindicated by his recent ‘Dishonour List’, which runs close, possibly even overtaking, the lists of Lloyd George and of Harold Wilson’s Lavender List,” he added.

Saroop, who took senior roles at various multinationals and served as an adviser to charities such as Oxfam and Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund, said, “It’s obviously a wrench to return my CBE. I was extremely proud to be awarded it.”