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  Opinion   Columnists  10 May 2024  Farrukh Dhondy | The Indian diaspora and fissures within: Why do Sunak & Co target UK refugees?

Farrukh Dhondy | The Indian diaspora and fissures within: Why do Sunak & Co target UK refugees?

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : May 11, 2024, 12:05 am IST
Updated : May 11, 2024, 12:05 am IST

Exploring the impact of the Indian diaspora on culture, politics, and identity

Navigating the complexities of diasporic identity and influence. (Image by freepik)
 Navigating the complexities of diasporic identity and influence. (Image by freepik)

“O come with old Bachchoo and leave the rest

Though Khayyam and Rumi are still the best

He who tries and tries they say never dies --

So Bachchoo attempts poetic conquest...”

From Aesop’s Goal, by Bachchoo

There is no escaping the fact: I am part of what some characterise as the “Indian diaspora”.

I haven’t decided whether being a member of it is a historical triumph or something to be ashamed of. I suppose, to settle my trembling heart on the question, I should examine the evidence for one or the other -- for being proud or ashamed of being a “diasporic” individual. The question doesn’t keep me awake all night, but some events, recent encounters, media shows and even a recent academically researched book, bring me to wonder.

It’s Edward T.G. Anderson’s Hindu Nationalism in the Indian Diaspora. He begins the book with a history of the formation of what can be loosely labelled the Indian “diaspora”. This is not the belated account of people like the Pakistani workers in the mills of Yorkshire and Lancashire who migrated in the 1950s and 1960s; or myself, who came as a student to Britain in the mid-1960s and for various reasons remained (do read my autobiography Fragments Against My Ruin, which says why I stayed. Stop advertising your rubbish --Ed).

Anderson’s account takes into consideration the movements of labour under the British Raj -- the indentures to the Caribbean islands in the nineteenth century, the migration of Indians to South Africa, etc. The diaspora is not just recent history, though Anderson’s account concerns itself in great detail with the genesis of the Hindu and Hindutva ideology and organisations which arose through the inspiration of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Anderson’s detailed and profound analysis is sub-titled “Transactional Politics and British Multi-culturalism”. Undoubtedly, the Hindutva ideology as perpetrated by the RSS and VHP have some impact on the worship and beliefs of the Hindu communities in the UK. The public impact of these is nothing more than the presence of predominantly Gujarati hordes at London’s Wembley Stadium when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited and presided there.

The only “political” impact that this particular tenet of philosophy had was perhaps a riot of Hindu-Muslim dissent which lasted a few days in Leicester with agitators from each community invading the residential districts of the other and shouting slogans. Big deal?

The “diasporic” record, in recent times, is so much more interesting. Let’s count the “diaspora” as people from the subcontinent. Muslims welcome in the term.

These have made their mark in the culture, commerce and politics of the UK to which I’m concentrating my contentions -- not that I can’t see that Leo Varadkar in Ireland and Kamala Harris in the United States have made their mark.

The world knows that Salman Rushdie and Hanif Kureishi, among others, have had a profound impact on world literature -- not to mention the diasporic master of international insight, the Nobel laureate Vidia Naipaul.

Vidia seems to have an ambivalent position as one of us -- as an Indian diasporic. He was a Trinidadian by origin, a descendant of Indian indentured labour and, in Anderson’s definition, a distinct diasporic. He wrote an early book of discovery through an exploration of India called An Area of Darkness, which was denounced, almost universally, by Indian critics.

But then, when in his next book and in several historically truthful works he wrote about the cruelty of the Muslim regimes of India against the Hindu population, he was adopted by the Hindutva brigade as one of their spokespersons.

He was actually, trust me, who knew him intimately and personally, no such thing.

And so, gentle reader, apart from these triumphs of diasporic achievement, I have, after reading Edward’s meticulously examined book, contemplated sadly, disappointedly, writing something about the truly negative contribution of us diasporic members to countries, to culture, to history and even to truth.

I mean targeting very prominent people like Hedgie Soongone (yes, my name for Rishi Sunak), the unelected by people or party, “Prime Minister of the UK”; Cruella Cowardperson (satirical name for Suella Fernandes Braverman) and Ugly “Priti” Patel... and yes, some others.

These -- the named three -- are the diasporic Indian children of immigrants who fled Africa and were given shelter in the UK and British citizenship. What have all three dedicatedly done to further their Conservative political careers?

Gentle reader, “Priti”, promoted to the rank of home secretary, formulated a policy to send people fleeing from prejudice, oppression and even genocide and seeking asylum in Britain, to Rwanda -- a country now designated as a great, safe place after its genocidal history between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes.

Ugly’s family had fled Africa -- Idi Amin, racial discrimination... geddit? So did the families of Cruella and Hedgie, both of whom have, in political office as successive home secretaries of the UK and as PM, sucked up to the same policy. Yes, very many of this trio’s Tory colleagues think their policy is a disaster. It is.

My humble diasporic opinion -- or question -- is why do the descendants of families who fled Africa want to exile desperate refugees to be forcibly sent there?

Thirty pieces of silver?

Nah!

Pandering to supposed crowd prejudice? Most likely. But that’s not decidedly, uniformly, ambivalent Britain. Watch this space!

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