‘Gives us a little hope’
“Finally someone from our background” and “this man is super rich and distinguished.” The Indian diaspora in Holland, made up of Indians, Dutch, Surinamese and Hindus, is divided around Rishi Sunak.
Sunak is the first British Prime Minister of color since last week, has roots in India, and is a practicing Hindu. “I was so stunned when I heard the news,” says Stephen Singh, 41, from Amsterdam. Singh works for an Indian wholesaler, is Sikh and has Hindustani, Surinamese, Indian roots. “Finally, a person of color in British politics can call himself prime minister.”
Didn’t expect that. We must not forget that not so long ago, India fell under the empire of British colonialism. With all that British settlers have done all over the world, you wouldn’t think their country would now be run by a person of color. Many Indian and Hindustani relatives and friends are very happy with Sunak. Finally someone from our background who can hold the highest position in politics. It gives us a certain sense of pride.
Singh finds it special that Sunak belongs to the right-wing Conservative Party, which wants to significantly reduce immigration. When his Indian parents immigrated to the United Kingdom, the British welcomed these immigrants as it was expected that they would go on to build the country. But immigrants today are seen as a kind of burden. I guess that’s why Sonak’s parents are so privileged.
Utrecht Nzima Bakari Sheikh, 48, was also proud when she heard the news about Sunak. Bakari Sheikh has roots in India, Pakistan and Suriname. She is a Muslim and helps unregistered people in daily life. Despite her happiness, she questions Snack’s political choices: “This man is super rich and privileged. What will he do to the South Asian community in his country?
“Snack will not help expatriates unless it reduces class differences”
She asserts that Sunak is married to the daughter of a billionaire and comes from a wealthy immigrant family. “The new British Prime Minister is not at all familiar with the struggles of members of South Asian society, such as class differences and racism. Sunak can only really help expats if he reduces class differences in British society and is well-paid.
She had the same feeling when Kamala Harris, partly of Indian descent, became Vice President of the United States in 2020. And to extend it to the Netherlands: We can hope to finally have a prime minister of color here, too. But did you vote for someone because of roots and recognition, or because you hope that person means something to our community?
Announcing “white talk”
Suriname Hindustan Sarita Bagnath (44) from Amsterdam thought it symbolically nice that Diwali becomes prime minister on the Hindu festival of lights. Bajnath was raised as a Hindu and works in the fields of Excellence, Security and Inclusion. “It is also special, in light of British colonial history, that a person of Indian descent now holds the highest office.”
But she keeps her heart to the content. Sunak mainly represents the rich and wants to close the border to new immigrants. How does the equal piece return in his policy?
“Sunak is twice as rich as Prince Charles,” Bajnath continues. “He can experience racism as a person of color, but since he comes from a high socioeconomic class, I wonder what he can really do for the average British citizen of color who is a victim of institutional racism.”
Bajnath also sees parallels with Holland, where “many people of color eventually imitate the white combo” and put the interests of whites first. Then we could start striving to represent people of color, but that wouldn’t change anything. So I don’t see his leadership being very positive. I have little hope for equality, and I don’t think Sunak represents a fairer economy.
Just like with Obama
Sunak would inspire Hindus in the UK and the Netherlands to enter politics too, believes Suriname and Hindustan-based Vinesh Lalta (38), MP D66 of the south of the Netherlands.
“I was so proud when I heard the news. I actually had a little bit of a feeling when Barack Obama became president. But now it’s getting closer, because it’s in the UK and because of our part roots. If it’s possible there, it can also be done in Holland and the rest of the world, right?” ?
Lalta says he is convinced that Hindus can add value in politics. We can make a difference by spreading our religious message. That is, by showing respect for each other, nature and animals. Take the Hindu festival of Holi: by throwing colored powder at each other, the differences between them fade away and we show that everyone is equal. With Sunak in power, as well as more and more Hindus and other immigrants occupying important positions, we can finally get our global message across.
Walta is not a fan of the Conservative Party, which he considers elitist and too conservative. I’m comparing Sunak’s policies a little bit to VVD’s. It can still continue. Parties like PVV and Forum for Democracy do not. If Sunak had become prime minister on behalf of such a party, UKIP (European Skeptic Party, ed.), for example, I would be ashamed.
Hope and confidence
Despite his conservatism, Sunak gives hope and inspiration to the Indian diaspora, says Amsterdam’s Amir Singh. Thanks to him, we learn that we can finally represent ourselves, and we do not have to hide in the corner. Before Sunak became Prime Minister, we had little hope that the Indian diaspora would also be present in the society. Our social engagement was barely visible. We protected ourselves because we had a multicultural background and thought we wouldn’t fit in.
Singh wants to say that Sunak’s premiership is definitely having an impact. More and more people with an Indian background now want to show that they also want to mean something to the community. This is also from this time. It is a “na” community now, and is no longer restricted to indigenous peoples. I hope in a couple of years we will be able to proudly say that Indian roots helped British society move forward.
“Thanks to him we knew we could represent ourselves”
Indian Prime Minister? Hindustani and other immigrants in the Netherlands have long believed this is not possible, says D66 member Lalta. Colonialism has damaged our self-confidence. Sunak explains that this roof can be broken. We may not all have to become prime ministers, but we can become the best in our field. Sunak’s premiership also gives me, as a Hindu with political ambitions, a boost of hope, confidence and positive energy. From now on we can all move forward and work together more.
The Utrecht community Bhakkari elder is more skeptical. British colonialism still had an impact. There is still little attention paid to the genocide during the partition between India and Pakistan in 1947. De Kohinoor, an Indian diamond, still in Elizabeth’s crown in the UK; This still hurts. So I wonder if we can get people to show solidarity with the South Asian diaspora.
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