Kavita Puri, a British journalist, radio broadcaster and author, interviewed the generation that came from the Indian subcontinent to post-war Britain. This generation helped to rebuild a dilapidated Britain in the aftermath of the Second World War. In return, they faced regular racism and slurs from the whites whose treatment of the newly-arrived Asians only emphasised the predominant sentiment of the British public – "go back to your country." This is how Kavita Puri portrays the miseries of the first generation of the immigrants from Bangladesh, and other countries of the subcontinent.
More than half a century has passed and newer generations of British citizens with South Asian origins have made the islands their home. But even after spending a lifetime in Britain, the 'purity' of their 'Britishness' is questioned. The old evil – racism – has resurfaced in the last few years.
Following the 2016 Brexit referendum, racially motivated hate crimes have been on the rise in Britain. London is not a cosmopolis any more, because many Britishers, mostly English in origin, fear that it is losing its Englishness. An aging John Cleese of Fawlty Towers fame said early this year that the capital was "not really an English city any more."
After Britain formulated laws criminalising racism, hope ensued among the migrants and minorities for a better life. There has indeed been more representation of the minorities in the British politics ever since.
London – for the first time in the history – now has a Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, who was born to a Pakistani immigrant parents. Not long ago, Sajid Javid served as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But despite such representations in the political spectrum, hate crime based on race has found its way back into Britain.
The sufferings of the South Asians, in European cosmopolitan centres are the obvious example of how the global "north" has always looked down upon the "south" as its eternal other.
Kavita, in her opinion published on The Guardian, depicted the hardship of Runi Sayeed who migrated to Britain from Dhaka in 1968. She regularly faced racist behaviour back then. "Why don't you go back to your country? Why are you here?" Runi remembered as random passers-by threw at her such verbal insults. Her daughter Farah regrettably described to Kavita how after 50 years in Britain, she and her mother are "again" faced with "outward racism".
How so many years after naturalisation into the British life and an ensuing era of liberalism, South Asians encounter anew the kind of racist attitude their ancestors had to face following their arrival in the British Isles is a matter of concern. Racism in British politics is back with a vengeance.
As Britain passed laws criminalising racism, Professor Gurhurpal Singh believed things were going to improve because he thought it as a "one-way" road. But to the professor's dismay, Kavita Puri writes on The Guardians, it was just a theory "sold by liberals to migrants who came here… And it's been proven than radical reversals occur."
Now, call this a radical reversal, or a shade under the lamp that always existed there for the right moment to encroach on more social-political landscape of Britain.
Racism and bigotry is on the rise all around in the post-truth world, where nationalism and its cohort "nativism' has seen a revival. In the age what many experts call the rise of "populism" in democracies in Asia and the West, politics of fearmongering and hatred for "other" turned out profitable for the politicians.
Immigrants from the Indian subcontinent in the United States and Britain regularly encounter crimes based on race and the slur such as "go back to your country" seems to be getting louder.
On the other hand, a "reversal" – if one can claim so – occurs in India where immigrants face potential deportations and bigotry based on religions and languages. The Bharatiya Janata Party leadership of India has created an environment of fear among Muslim and other minorities and immigrants who have been living there for years.
The BJP leader Amit Shah compared the immigrants in India with termites and warned to throw them in the Bay of Bengal. In Assam of India, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has excluded nearly two million people from the list of citizens who are mostly Muslims and Bengali speaking Hindus. Following the NRC in Assam, the Indian parliament passed a controversial citizenship law singling out the Muslim immigrants from Indian citizenship which came to be known as Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
After nationwide protests sparked following the citizenship act, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the protesters "can be identified by the clothes they are wearing," referring to their Muslim identity. Such attempts to divide the nation by a populist politician like Narendra Modi, however, is not unique. The populist politicians all across the world follow this "us vs them" framework in a bid to dominate people on the basis of religion, colour, language and culture.
This division based on hatred for other is regrettably the reality in many democratic countries across the world. Boris Johnson, the incumbent prime minster of United Kingdom, has been accused of spreading Islamophobia over the years and still he managed to win a landslide victory in the last UK elections. On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition leader of the UK, is also accused of anti-Semitism. Both politicians have been unapologetic of their remarks and actions. This is so, because leaders like Boris Johnson, Narendra Modi or Donald Trump have been cashing in on the "us vs them" politics.
As Professor Gurhurpal Singh revealed his frustration with the liberals, the western liberals indeed have failed to thwart the rise of populism, racism and the politics of bigotry. When lines of refugees from Syria faced obstruction in Europe, it was the liberals who were in power in everywhere of the West. The populists and bigots in the West and Asia only cashed in on the disasters left behind by the liberal politicians like Barack Obama and Angela Merkel.
In pursuit of explaining why liberalism cannot stand up against today's bigotry of the populist right wing politics, Rudrangshu Mukherjee's book "Twilight Falls on Liberalism" portrays how liberals can be two faced in terms of policies at home and abroad. Whereas democracy is the "mantra" of the liberals in the west and they claim to preach it worldwide, they have always been cosying up to the dictators of their choice in the Middle East and elsewhere despite the sufferings of the mass people.
Consequently, the skewed policies of the western leader resulted in multiple wars around the world and led the misplaced people to look for entry into Europe as refugees. This fuelled the politics of fear that the right wing politicians grabbed the opportunity to lend momentum to culture of fear and bigotry, which resurfaced to pervade the mainstream in the last few years.
As twilight falls on liberalism, immigrants from the Indian subcontinent suffer both in the west and in their homes in the Indian subcontinent – don't forget the Rohingya people. Hatred for other all over the world is turning the world a battleground between the people on basis of religion, colour and language. But the sufferings of the South Asians, in European cosmopolitan centres are the obvious example of how the global "north" has always looked down upon the "south" as its eternal other.