Dear British Indians,
While some of you might be excited to welcome the Prime Minister of India to the United Kingdom, I would like to attract your attention to some of the recent unfortunate incidents that have raised serious questions on his government’s democratic commitment.
But before that, let me point out some of the things that have affected you in the past in the UK. You as a minority community in Britain have had bitter-sweet experiences historically. At times, your Chicken Tikka Masala is hailed as Britain’s true national dish, and at times your Diwali is snubbed as a non-British festival. At times, your contributions in this country are emphatically recognised, and at times you are blamed for living parallel lives, separate from the mainstream. At times, your presence in this country is celebrated, and there are days when you are considered a burden on welfare state in Britain.
You do remember Stephen Lawrence, don’t you? He was a member of a minority community like yours who was murdered in cold blood in a racial attack in London in 1993. Mindless racism did not only lead to his killing but also failed to give justice to his bereaved family. The Metropolitan police, which inquired into his murder, was found to be “institutionally racist”. You wouldn’t like to be a victim of such racism in the country you live, would you?
I am sure you are also aware of an openly xenophobic and ultranationalist party called British National Party (BNP), which calls for resettlement of migrant populations to their countries of ethnic origin. You wouldn’t like an idea like that to be translated into power, would you?
Now juxtapose these issues of the country you live in, that is UK, with some of the incidents that have happened in the country of your origin, that is India, under the watch of the prime minister you are excitedly waiting to welcome.
Think of two Muslim men being lynched by raging mobs in separate incidents in Dadri in the northern state of UP and in Imphal in the eastern state of Manipur. Politics of hatred caused the loss of two innocent lives. And also think of several leaders of the PM’s BJP, time and again, threatening to send Indian Muslims to Pakistan.
Do you find the lynching of the two men in India any different to the killing of Stephan Lawrence in the UK? And do you find the BJP leaders’ threats to send Indian Muslims to Pakistan any different to the BNP’s determination to send people like you to the countries of your origin?
In fact, if there is a difference between the Indian community in UK and the Muslim community in India, it is this that the Indian community in UK has indeed predominantly migrated in the recent memorable history, that is, after the Second World War, whereas Muslims in India have not. Muslims have been living in India for centuries.
So if, despite this fact, you find BNP’s ideology as racist, xenophobic and regressive -and rightly so – can those BJP leaders’ views be legitimate, tolerant and progressive? If not, then why not lodge your protest with the visiting leader of that party, who is also the prime minister of India?
Please remember, both in the UK and in India these horrific crimes and appalling threats are directed against the minorities by some fanatic nationalists. If you,as a minority in UK don’t approve of racist killing of Stephan Lawrence and the xenophobic views of BNP, then isn’t it your moral duty to raise your voice against similar things happening against your minority counterparts in India?
After all, you are some of the most privileged people on earth to straddle between the largest democracy and one of the oldest democracies of the world. You have inherited the democratic values like tolerance, respect, dignity and equal opportunities for all. You know what democracy means and how politicians should treat you.
So if you plan take a ride on the UK Welcomes Modi bus or decide to go to Wembley on Friday, please bear in mind that you might be turning a blind eye to what is happening in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming on a state visit. What transpires in his meetings with PM David Cameroon and the Queen will make the visit a success or a failure, not his photo op with you.
Mohammad Behzad Fatmi