Falling under the wheels of the juggernaut

The ‘Caste-aways ‘ who nearly won.

Looking back at the zenith of the East African Asians’ lives in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in the early 1960s, all was well when the bounty was plentiful, at least for most of them. The rich and powerful were driven by various forms of propulsion as long as they could successfully divide and capture their followers. However, the Asians repeatedly made charges of ‘divide and rule’ against their British rulers during the colonial times. These charges gained greater currency when monumental splits of territory took place in 1947 in the Indian Sub-Continent.  Many had sternly believed that Hindus and Muslims had been inseparable for ages but it was outgoing colonialist who stoked the fires which followed independence of India and Pakistan. Charges of divide and rule were often made by the new wahindi whenever local or national governments in the UK and Canada have made policy decisions. There has been a spectacular dynamic at work whenever allocations of land, grants and public favour have been challenged by British Asians.

But no one, until very recently, appears to have exposed the propeller in the underbelly of British Asian cruise ship. It is known as the caste system. Allegations of religious and denominational divisions based on sociology and heritage may well be accommodated or at best be explained away without rancour. The law is thankfully well resourced to address all aspects of evidence based racism. However when landmarks of progress are examined with a different lens, the most visible reflection of Sikh and Hindu infrastructure in the form of temples, sports clubs, schools and community clubs are often defined by caste based investment criteria. No one seemed to mind as long as the caste based discrimination was operated under the table.

Local politicians and visiting government ministers from all political persuasions have applauded the immense contribution that the Asians have made to Britain’s cities and in most cases, rightly so. They have upgraded the most derelict areas of the inner city and re-introduced commerce. Old and disused churches have given way to busy temples. Decaying and low value housing stock has been purchased by community organisations. Creative Asian architects and building firms have established new places of worship in almost every major city of the United Kingdom. The success was celebrated for many good reasons.  In addition, local councils have keenly accommodated new building proposals for community infrastructure by tugging at the rubber bands of planning laws. Apart from possible appeals by local people on the basis of noise, many areas have suffered traffic congestion which has not been helped by poor parking enforcement. However, there are also excellent examples of ingenious traffic solutions.

The writer estimates that the Sikhs alone have built over 400 temples in the UK with a potential land and property valuation of £4 billion. The temples have been serving the communities’ needs reasonably well. Some temples  offer almost 24 hour access and the most significant beneficiaries are the Sikh elderly who can access spiritual and communal welfare programmes almost every day of the week.  Whether the community organisations operate within the ambit of charity law remains another area of concern but as long as the net gains of social investment exceeds any discernible costs to individuals, these charities have also brought distinct benefits. However, unexpected visits by the police during elections when leaders are deposed or re-elected may also be due to the ugly face of caste-led allegiances.

But the British Asian juggernaut seems to have been blocked. A few months ago, reports began to emerge of alleged caste-led discrimination in Britain’s public institutions, with more specific allegations that decisions on career progression and promotion were likely to be based on caste-based criteria rather than seniority or merit in some parts of the NHS, local authorities and other agencies of government.

Have forces of discrimination gone a full circle? British Asians who arrived on the UK in the early 1970s bitterly complained of racial discrimination by African leaders who blocked work permits or simply expelled them. Now, have British Asian community leaders turned on their own communities in pursuit of caste-based discrimination?

This blog hopes to examine these issues in more detail but always with due respect for the law and a recognition that not all British Asian institutions have fallen under the wheels of the caste based juggernaut. History seems to explain that falling under the wheels of the religious juggernaut was a traditional form of sacrifice. British Asian Sikhs and Hindus who were cast out of African countries are alleged to have embraced caste as a means of reinvigorating political consolidation.  It did not work in Africa where intra-Asian divisions weakened the departing Asians.

Will the castaways succeed in Britain? No. Not if the lawmakers understand the perils of the Asian caste system and take firm action which appears to be on the cards.

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