NAOMI CANTON | TNN |
LONDON: A British Punjabimental health charity has withdrawn from the shortlist of the British Indian Awards 2019 saying it does not want to be associated with the word “British Indian”.
The charity Taraki was listed on Tuesday as a finalist in the Influencer of the Year category of the 7th British Indian Awards, which recognise a wide range of achievements of the diaspora.
British Punjabi Shuranjeet Singh Takhar, founder and director of Taraki, posted a statement on Twitter explaining that he was “withdrawing Taraki from this opportunity” owing to the “influencer” tag ascribed to Taraki, as well as the term “British Indian” which he said was “an incredibly loaded label”.
“Such labels are not devoid of political turbulence,” he wrote. “My understanding of 20th-century histories on the South Asian subcontinent paints a bleak picture for human rights with intense discrimination existing along lines of gender, religion and caste. Events such as the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid, the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, and the sustained state genocide against Sikh communities spanning several decades show, in my view, how India has failed to adequately meet the needs of minority communities. To present day, individuals are discriminated against based on race, gender, caste, religion, and more complex intersections,” Takhar said.
“If one is labelled an ‘influencer’ we believe that others are seen as ‘influenced’. I do not feel comfortable identifying myself or Taraki as an ‘influencer’ or a movement identified as ‘British Indian’,” he concluded.
The awards ceremony will take place at the Holiday Inn in Birmingham on July 26. It is organised by a private company, Oceanic Consulting, the founder and CEO of which is British Pakistani businessman Irfan Younis.
A spokesperson for Oceanic Consulting said: “We are very sorry to hear that Taraki do not wish to be recognised for the great work they do within the Punjabi community. Since we launched the ceremony hundreds of British men and women of Indian descent have been recognised for the amazing contribution they have made to life in the UK.”
Deepa Singh, a Birmingham activist from Sikh Youth UK, born in the UK to Punjabi parents, said he stood with Taraki’s statement. “I am not a British Indian. I consider myself as a Sikh,” he told TOI.
Deepa was arrested and released last week over allegations of fraud in connection with his charity and his home was among five Sikh households raided by West Midlands police in 2018.
In the last UK census in 2011, 83,362 people refused to select “British Indian” as their ethnicity and instead handwrote “Sikh”.
That spurred a plethora of British Sikh organisations and gurdwaras in May to launch a legal challenge to the Cabinet Office’s proposals for the 2021 census over its failure to include a Sikh ethnic tick box.
Dr Rami Ranger, chairman of Sun Mark Ltd, said he felt Taraki’s move was short-sighted. “The award would have raised the profile of the charity and highlighted their sterling work. Sadly, Taraki is now attracting negative publicity rather than getting applauded for their good work,” he said.