Non-Required Indians come of age
They are no longer the non-required Indians. They have a multi-dimensional significance today, esteemed as models of family values, with sharp minds and innovative entrepreneurship and useful in all facets of British life, writes Vijay Dutt.Updated: Sep 08, 2008, 00:20 IST
They are no longer the non-required Indians. They have a multi-dimensional significance today, esteemed as models of family values, with sharp minds and innovative entrepreneurship and useful in all facets of British life.
Instead of being burdens they are irreplaceable contributors to the economy. Young professionals are visible increasingly in the city. It is well acknowledged that without Indian doctors the National Health Service would have collapsed.
A large number are well-entrenched in politics too. The Indian millionaires, like the Russian oligarchs, are dictating the property market and the Indian take-over tycoons have ensured the respect for Indians in London
The Indian curry dislodging the national favourite dish, fish and chips, is indicative of this integration.
But the transition from humiliating discrimination earlier generations faced chronicles a long struggle for rights and equality.
Recalls Krishan Bhatia, general secretary of the Indian Workers Association in the 70s, “The fight back to against discrimination and to convince this society to that we were intelligent, hard-working and innovative entrepreneurs was arduous.
“In the 50s and 60s it was impossible to get any jobs except in factories. The real break-through was made after Indians came from East Africa and started opening corner shops. The barrier was broken and small then medium scale businesses mushroomed. The locals found the corner shop owners friendly and supportive. The social barriers began to crack,” adds Bhatia.
A few more then took on the struggle. Usha Prashar, a young woman had faced the wrath of the Establishment when she and nearly 200 protesters marched along the Broadway in Southall raising slogans against discrimination.
That very Usha Prashar is now a Baroness, president of the Royal Commonwealth Society and a member of the Commission for appointment of judges to Royal Courts of Justice.
The real turning point can be said to be 1975 when a 16-year-old Gurdeep Chaggar was fatally stabbed, the first-ever racial murder, near a cinema in Southall. It ignited a nationwide agitation against discrimination.
Over 20,000 assembled at Hyde Park, said Bhatia, but before “we could march even to the Marble Arch, the Prime Minsiter announced in Parliament that all Indian-origin immigrants would be accepted and their entries regularised.
There are many ‘rags to riches’ stories of the early arrivals.
Raj Loomba, who drove an ice-cream van in late 60s, is now a recipient of CBE, an honour second to knighthood only.
His charitable trust, which finances education of over 3,600 children of poor widows in India, is the only Indian trust, the patronage of which was accepted by Cherie Blair when her husband Tony Blair, was the Prime Minister.
The lamps lit at Diwali celebration at the House of Commons with Prime Minister and MPs present, in fact, celebrates the iconic status of the 1.6 million Indian community.