Britain has changed domestically, says Tharoor

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Last October, the 42-year-old Sunak scripted history when he was appointed by King Charles III as Britain’s first Indian-origin prime minister…reports Asian Lite News

Rishi Sunak being elected Britain’s first Indian-origin prime minister signals a wind of change in the UK, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said on the inaugural day of the 16th Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) on Thursday.

The Thiruvananthapuram MP was moderating an interaction session with Pulitzer winner Caroline Elkins about her recent book “Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire”.

When Elkins asked him to weigh in on Sunak’s appointment as the British prime minister, Tharoor said, “I think it does suggest that Britain has changed domestically. It has changed also because of the empire. With all those centuries of empire, they ended up creating a situation in which the colonised had pretty much no other aspiration to aim for than to make it to the metropolitan country.” “And so you did see a lot of people moving there because the British had indoctrinated them into believing that that was the acme of all that was splendid and wonderful in life that was worth aspiring for. So what you saw these folks doing then was heading there and that was also before Independence and much smaller numbers. And after Independence, many people headed that way,” he added.

Last October, the 42-year-old Sunak scripted history when he was appointed by King Charles III as Britain’s first Indian-origin prime minister, after being elected unopposed as the new leader of the governing Conservative Party.

Calling Sunak “an interesting man” who he knew personally, Tharoor said one of the striking aspects about the current UK PM was that the world witnessed a brown person, born to East African Indians, getting a ticket from the Conservative Party.

“If you look at the first five MPs of Indian descent in Britain, starting with 1892, Dadabhoi Naoroji was a liberal. A couple of the MPs who came right after the 1920s were even Communists, Shapurji Saklatvala for example. You actually had people who represented a sort of strain of thinking that would be deemed left of centre during the Empire.

“Today, you’re seeing a brown person getting a ticket from the Conservative, he’s not the only one, there are Blacks… So, all of this suggests that Britain has changed internally,” the Congress MP, who is also the author of “An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India”, added.

According to Tharoor, Sunak’s appointment is also a tribute to his competence.

“Britain’s in the economic doldrums. You have a prime minister who’s basically messed up — Liz Trust — and the British MPs realise that the only person who can salvage them through sound competent economic management happens to be a brown man. He demonstrated his competence as chancellor of the exchequer of the UK,” he said.

But Brexit shows there is still a lot of prejudice in Britain, added Tharoor, who said he personally experienced racism in the UK in the 1970s.

Terming Sunak’s prime ministership “one of the most delicious footnotes” in UK history, the political leader said, “Guess who nominates the next Archbishop of Canterbury? The prime minister and he’s a Hindu.” Elkins, who won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for her book “Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya”, commented on the push back by Meghan Markle, who also happens to be a person of colour.

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