London set to give a rousing welcome to Modi

Letter from New Delhi

Great Britain and British Indians are looking forward to the visit of the Prime Minister of India Mr Narendra Modi. Both countries have very good relations and business interests from both sides are at increase, said Lord Ranbir Suri of Ealing.

Lord Loomba CBE said, “British Indians would like Modi’s visit to forge stronger relations and to promote business between the two nations. British Indians are planning to welcome Modi in a big and memorable way. A huge event will take place at the Wembley Stadium where over 80,000 people will welcome Modi. This crowd will be bigger than in any other country Modi has visited in the world so far. British Asian media is publicising Modi visit in a big way.”

Ground reports from London show over 1.4 million British Indians hold Modi in high esteem and in awe of his globe-trotting stamina. The Indian diaspora have a lot of expectations from Modi because they think he is the saviour of India after the disastrous Congress rule of many years that led to so much corruption and misrule.

Even though Modi will be asking British Indians to invest in India, he has yet to do a lot of work and expect him to resolve issues like doing business without let or hindrance, wipe out bureaucracy, corruption and red tape. It is only then they could consider investing in the land of their ancestors.

Preparations are in full swing to welcome Modi in London. More than 450 UK-based Indian organisations are hosting a mammoth public reception at the world famous Wembley Stadium where some 80,000 people, mostly Indians, will turn up on November 13 after obtaining tickets by lottery as the demand is well above the stadium’s capacity. The event is organised by the Europe-India Forum headed by a prominent NRI multi-millionaire entrepreneur Nathu (Nat) Puri, 76, of Nottingham. The Indian High Commissioner in London Ranjan Mathai urged the Indian community to present a united front during the 13th November event. The Wembley event promises not only to match the US welcome the Indian Premier received but could outdo them. An action-filled programme consists of a cultural extravaganza, fireworks and a huge celebratory party. Many NRIs believe here that the kind of welcome to Mr Modi will rank among the largest accorded to any visiting foreign leader to Britain.

But strong chances of anti-India demonstrations hover by the British Pakistanis, Kashmiris, Sikhs and Christians. Earlier, there was talk of Patels demonstrating against Modi but insiders here say the protests may be diffused at the last minute as happened in the US and could be reduced from slogan shouting to merely tying black bands by some protesters. But it goes without saying that the one-million strong Gujarati community is in no doubt promising a warm welcome to Mr Modi as he is from Gujarat. Sikh demonstrations are a vague possibility though the community members in Southall are not revealing anything, simply dismissing any question with, “Let’s see what happens.”

The Asian media here has gone agog with its pre-event coverage of the Modi visit. This no doubt is a big front-page story for them in a country where British Indian immigration and social issues normally hold the front pages. Mr Modi will no doubt be a mega media event here. It will also mean more advertising revenue for them as there will be many goodwill messages to Mr Modi to commemorate his UK visit. Leading newspapers like Gujarat Samachar, Garvi Gujarat, Asian Voice and the dozens of other UK Asian-owned newspapers and TV channels will concentrate on covering Mr Modi’s visit producing special supplements and TV slots.

Will British Labour Party under its new leader be critical of Modi and his policies? Labour will definitely participate in welcoming Mr Modi. All politics and differences will be set aside. Senior Labour MP Keith Vaz and other Labour MPs like Virendra Sharma are already in the forefront as members of the welcoming party. It could be perilous for the Labour Party to turn its back on this visit because their own vote bank is hugely dependent on the Asian community. They wouldn’t think it worthwhile angering the pro-Modi UK Gujarati community.

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Kenyatta Day

Kenya Indians Flourish Under President Kenyatta

On 20 October, Kenya celebrated its national holiday, Kenyatta Day, to pay tribute to all freedom fighters and the father of the nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. During the Kenyatta era, Kenya Indians prospered as Kul Bhushan, who worked as a newspaper editor in Nairobi during this period, recalls the charismatic leader who united different races and tribes for progress and prosperity.

The word Kenyatta means light of Kenya in Swahili. Jomo Kenyatta was the unquestioned leader who brought the light of freedom to Kenya after tremendous sacrifice and suffering. Kenya Indians during his 15-year presidency from 1963 to 1978, thousands of Indians left Kenya when he introduced Africanisation of business. Many more became small industrialists from shopkeepers as the economy grew by around seven per cent during this time.

Earlier, Kenya Indians played a key role in the fight for independence for many decades. They demanded equal rights for all in the legislative council; published newspapers and magazines pressing for equality and some even went to jail with African leaders in their freedom struggle.

But the focus was always Jomo Kenyatta. Known by different names during his life, he was born as Kamau wa Ngngi in a village near Nairobi between 1889 and 1895. After his parents died during his early years, he moved with his grandfather. He obtained his early education at a church school with carpentry training. As an apprentice, he was baptized as Johnstone Kamau.

While working as an interpreter, in 1919, he married Grace Wahu in a tribal ceremony, so he was ordered by the church to get remarried before a magistrate. Working as a store clerk, he wore a beaded belt with the word ‘Kenyatta’. Taking interest in politics as an activist of Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), he became its leader and editor of its weekly. In 1929, KCA sent him to London to present African grievances before Colonial Office funded by an Indian leader, Isher Das who sails with him. He visited Russia before returning as unrest started at home. Joined a one-year course at Moscow University and later University Colle, London, and published his magnum opus, ‘Facing Mount Kenya’ under his new name, Jomo Kenyatta, about the lifestyle and culture of his Kikuyu tribe.

During World War Two, he worked as a film actor and married an Englishwoman Edna Clarke while working as a trade union leader before returning to Kenya in 1946. After becoming the President of Kenya African Union, he met Indian’s High Commissioner Apa Pant who later became a close friend. Addressing rallies all over Kenya, he called for independence within three years. Another trade unionist, Makhan Singh, joined him. When Emergency was declared in 1952, he was arrested with Makhan Singh, Pio Gama Pinto and others. Charged for managing Mau Mau uprising, he was defended by D. N. Pritt, Q.C.; Diwan Chaman Lall sent by Indian PM Nehru and Kenyan Indians lawyers, A. R. Kapila and Dr. F. R. S. DeSouza.

During his seven-year imprisonment, an Indian Gandhian, Ambu Patel, formed Release Kenyatta Committee, staged protests and published books urging for his freedom. On his release in 1961, he was given a hero’s welcome in Nairobi as president of Kenya National African Union (KANU). Two years later, on 12 December 1963, he was sworn as the President of Kenya until his death in 1978. Earlier, in 1961, a son, Uhuru (freedom) was born to his third wife. Uhuru became the fourth president of Kenya in 2013.

Known simply as ‘Mzee’ or a respected elder, Jomo Kenyatta, a thundering orator, always promoted unity among the three races and over 50 Kenyan tribes. His philosophy of ‘forgive but do not forget’ is presented in his book, ‘Suffering Without Bitterness’. Kenya became the blue-eyed nation for the West as investment poured in. And Kenya Indians were always eager to pledge their loyalty to him for their security and prosperity.

Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi

  • Published in print edition on 23 October 2015

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