Noting that ‘bhangra’ and ‘tandoori’ had gone mainstream, new Indian high commissioner Navtej Sarna paid tribute to the large Indian diaspora that now has a significant presence in every field in contemporary Britain.
Speaking to leading members of the Indian community in the Gandhi Hall of India House over the weekend, Sarna reiterated the conception of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that even if overseas Indians had different passports, they had as much claim on India as Indians.
“This India House is as much yours as ours. It reflects Indian-ness in every inch, since it was originally built for India. All community members must feel that this is their home and they are always welcome”, he said.
Sarna, who replaced Ranjan Mathai in early January, noted that the 1.5 million-strong Indian community here had flourished in every field, be it business, politics, culture, medicine, or law, and wielded political influence.
His remark about the popularity of ‘bhangra’ drew the most response from the gathering, reflecting the strides the genre has made since the 1960s. Birmingham is the centre of this genre of fusion-based music in post-war Britain.
The genre has gone mainstream, particularly due to popular contributions over the decades from artistes such as Apache Indian, Bally Sagoo and Panjabi MC. Channi Singh, considered the ‘godfather’ of British ‘bhangra music’, was honoured with an OBE in 2012.
Urging the community to assist in infrastructure development, Sarna said the high commission’s consular was reflected in Britain having the highest share of Indian electronic visas issued (24%), and nearly 300,000 Overseas Citizen of India cards being issued.