Letter from New Delhi — From Arranged Marriage to Divorce

Brexit Indian Diaspora

Arranged marriage is a fact of life for the Indian diaspora everywhere. When it breaks up, as in Brexit as Britain decides to leave the European Union (EU), the Indians know the pain and the after thoughts. After the Brexit or breakup decision, the spouse thinks, “Was it that bad? Can we give it another try?’

A superstore sales woman in London, Maya Sarna, said this referendum split many NRI families with one half wanted to vote in and other half staying out. “I voted out and now after seeing the massive problems the out vote has sparked off including the possibility of taxes going up. I feel it was a wrong decision. I was misled by the media and my colleagues who kept pushing the immigration line. I would be very happy if the referendum is either reversed or held again. I am sure that like me, many of us who voted out will reconsider their decision.” She expected the EU to tighten on travel restrictions for Britons when previously, one just had to flash one’s passport and walk through the open borders.

A majority of Asians are disappointed with the outcome of the Brexit Referendum on 23 June while a minority celebrated Britain’s exit. This is not what a majority of NRIs and even Prime Minister Cameron had bargained for. Many Britons, including Asians, are pointing out that Cameron’s gamble to please a section of the community had badly backfired as he was confident that the country would remain in the EU and that voters will prove detractors wrong as happened in the referendum for the independence of Scotland. Since the vote, the political atmosphere has soured and the country has descended into a farce turning the political arena into an open battleground. Racist attacks have been made at Polish immigrants and Asians as well.

“My concerns have never revolved around immigration. That too will continue; it is only the manner in which it is facilitated that will change. Britain needed to take back her sovereignty and stop Brussels dictating domestic legislation. The economy and currency will be uncertain temporarily but I have no doubt both will bounce back stronger for being independent.”

Coventry-based photojournalist Karam Bharij said Britain’s bickering to leave the EU received a big impetus after the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open border policy which opened the floodgates to unwelcome migrants, a majority of whom were not even genuine but were chasing free money from the British social security system.

“This put an unnecessary burden on the British National Health Service’s free medical care normally available to taxpaying Britons.” Additionally, he said, “the recent onslaught of IS attacks in Europe had generated fear that even Britain could be a target from Europe-based terrorists.”

The icing on the cake of Britain’s exit is that British entrepreneurs including those from the Diaspora will be able to do business globally unhindered by EU’s draconian laws decided in Brussels. He said that now conglomerates like Tata Steel may be able to resurrect their business in the UK in the fervent hope that the country will rein in cheap Chinese steel imports.

“One danger that we can foresee now is the rise of right wing political parties in Britain to assert their newly-found Britishness.” He warned that current political happenings are a wakeup call for Kenyan Diaspora in Britain to fully integrate in the British society fearing that there could new calls for those who fail to integrate to quit Britain.”

Radio broadcaster Chaman Lal Chaman said, “Yes British Indians voted in large numbers, though I do not have any figures to support my claim on ethnicity – in fact none is available – my visit to a couple of polling stations indicated a steady flow of black and Asian voters despite heavy rain.”

Chaman added, “The Labour Party including Vaz, Virender Sharma, Sidiq Khan and all Labour members followed the party line and voted to REMAIN while Priti Patel as a Tory Minister opposed her Leader like Boris Johnson and many others.

“Majority of small scale business community seem to have welcomed the exit as they were fed up with the EU bureaucracy – you remember those circulars from these Babus sending guidelines like “bananas” should be straight and beer should produce a certain height of “froth” when poured into a glass. Younger Asian professionals wanted to REMAIN as there were greater opportunities in the EU.”

Many Goans will be badly affected by Brexit. About 20,000 have come to Britain from Goa as Portuguese citizens. How? The Goan has to prove that he/she was born in Goa when Goa was a Portuguese colony. They then apply for a passport via the Portuguese Consulate in Goa which takes a few months or a year. Once they have a Portuguese, they fly to Lisbon and on to London as EU citizens.

Said Mervyn Maciel, a Goan retiree living in London, “I hear that Goa is making contingency plans to welcome back any Goan feeling unwelcome in the UK.”

Divorce proceedings get going soon and the pain endures.

Kul Bhushan and Shamlal Puri

* Published in print edition on 1 July 2016

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