"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Rishi Sunak makes history, but we must not overlook his right wing politics Featured

 

Gurpreet Singh   

India has reasons to celebrate after the first man of Indian origin has become the British Prime Minister. Considering how the British Empire once ruled the giant South Asian nation, and Indians had to fight to liberate their homeland from foreign occupation, this means a lot. That the Indians faced racial hatred as immigrants in the UK for years is another story.  

While everyone both in India and the Diaspora is congratulating Rishi Sunak, and rightfully so, there is a need to pause and examine what he truly represents, apart from the Indian identity.  

Sunak is a rich man who does not come from the working class of the citizens and immigrants of Indian descent in UK. Since he belongs to the right wing Conservative party, can we really expect him to stand up for them when it comes to systemic racism? Had he been from the more progressive Labour camp, we could have relied on him in addressing the issue which has been haunting Indian and other immigrants from across the globe. Things have changed over the years, with more people of colour joining British politics, and Sunak’s ascendance to the post of PM clearly reflects that. But it is nothing more than tokenism.  

History has been made certainly, but can Sunak make a change when it comes to decolonization? The British government has yet to apologize for the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre. In April 1919,  close to 1,000 people had died in an indiscriminate firing by British troops on peaceful demonstrators who had gathered in Amritsar to protest against draconian laws. With Sunak becoming the PM, expectations have obviously risen. We still have to see when the British government will return artifacts and relics plundered during their rule in India. It will be refreshing to see if Sunak delivers on these two ticklish issues.  

The way that supporters of the ruling right wing Hindu nationalist BJP in India are cheering the moment is hugely problematic. Since Sunak is a practising and proud Hindu, their jubilation sees no bounds. Sunak has every right to follow his faith and be proud of it; nevertheless, will he dare to challenge those in power in New Delhi about growing attacks on religious minorities under their government? Several reports suggest otherwise, and hopes are dismal. His critics within the South Asian communities apprehend that the Hindu Right will become emboldened in the UK under him, especially because his party is a natural ally of the BJP.  

For the record, this whole episode has also exposed the double speak of the BJP and its supporters, who did not let Sonia Gandhi, a widow of the former Indian Prime Minister the late Rajeev Gandhi, become the leader of India only due to her Italian heritage. This was despite the fact that she had spent years in India and gave her dues to her opposition Congress party. Notably, she too congratulated Sunak, even though the right wing Hindu nationalists did not show her similar respect and graciousness.  

Jubilation is fine, but it’s time to get real and make Sunak accountable.   

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Last modified on Wednesday, 26 October 2022 19:31
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Gurpreet Singh

Cofounder and Director of Radical Desi

https://twitter.com/desi_radical?lang=en

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