With Rishi Sunak having become the first Indian-origin Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the internet has come to be flooded with memes, and social media posts pointing towards his Indian roots, and his identity as a Hindu. The same has led to jubilant celebrations across India with some having equated his appointment to a Diwali gift. All in all, a general environment of jubilance has come to surround the appointment of Sunak to the topmost office of the UK (within India).
However, such rejoice is unwarranted for, and the same requires greater scrutiny. India does not stand to gain anything extraordinary, or significant from the appointment of Sunak as PM. Despite that, Indians continue to be jubilant about the appointment of Rishi Sunak to the top office in UK. The author argues in this piece that, the unnecessary rejoice and celebration with respect to appointment is in reality, part of larger Hindu-nationalist propaganda. Moreover, the act of highlighting of Sunak’s religious identity as a Hindu is in line with this.
The Appointment of Sunak
Indians must understand that the appointment of Sunak will not lead to significant benefits for India, or Indians. The mere fact that Sunak is a third generation, British-Indian, and the son-in-law of Narayan Murthy the founder of tech giant, Infosys does not automatically indicate his closeness to Indian masses, and by no means does it indicate that he would seek to promote Indian interests. Further, Sunak can be expected to put in additional efforts to show that he is not unduly soft in his deals, and negotiations with India. Moreover, given that British citizens want, a “do for us” approach, it would be particularly unreasonable to expect Sunak to even marginally favour India in any negotiations, or deals. Any negotiation, and deal with India would be subjected to a much closer scrutiny by British citizens, thereby, making it even more difficult for Sunak to promote Indian interests, no matter how softly.
Public Discourse and Social Media
It is important to study the public discourse on Sunak’s appointment as PM. Sunak’s appointment has been hailed by one media outlet as, the rise of an Indian son over “the empire”. Other posts on social media have reminded people of how once the British, forbade the entry of Indians and dogs in public places, and have juxtaposed the image of Sunak seated in his office, with his dog.
Sunak is being glorified as a man of Indian origin who has humbled the British empire. Particularly, in light of India’s colonial history, having a man of Indian origin at the helm of affairs in UK, has given rise to unnecessary jingoistic discourse. Important public figures have hailed it as a big development calling it a full circle in the wheel of fortune.
Apart from this significant public discourse has also originated from his identity as a Hindu. Sunak’s video of lighting Diyas at the doorstep of his house, along with other videos of him performing rituals such as Gau puja (Worship of Cows) have highlighted his identity as a Hindu. Further, Sunak’s kalawa (sacred thread) on his wrist, and the Ganesha (a Hindu god) idol on his desk have made news. Moreover, his oath to parliament in 2019 was taken over the Bhagvad Gita (An important religious text in Hinduism). All of these have been received with much jubilance by Hindu populace, and particularly the Hindu community in India and UK. Finally, Sunak had himself made it clear, that his religion and cultural heritage is Indian, and he is a proud Hindu.
As explained earlier, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that there is no substantial benefit accruing to India, or Indians through the appointment of Sunak. With such evidence before us, it becomes clearer that there exist other reasons and motivations being served by celebrating the victory of Sunak. Sunak is being portrayed as an “Indian” having conquered “the British”, although this is entirely false. Further, Sunak’s appointment is being portrayed as a victory of Hinduism, and Hindu culture.
The only reason seems to be, the promotion of a Hindu-nationalist spirit. The same can be gauged from the discourse being generated. Although some memes, and social media posts have been considered humorous, others have sought to draw attention to Sunak’s Hindu identity, and indicate pride.
A spokesperson from the Bhartiya Janta Party, the ruling party in India, has called Sunak’s appointment, a moment of great celebration. Further, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a right-wing, Hindu-nationalist organisation has called it a proud moment for Indians, and Hindus. The organisation also hopes for justice for Hindus and temples in the UK.
The appointment of Indian-origin leaders to top offices in their respective nations, for example, Kamala Harris, Pravind Jugnauth, Antonio Costa, and now Rishi Sunak is received with unnecessary fervour in India. Their victories are presented in a manner, whereby the common man is forced to think India, and its culture is growing its influence over other nations, and that India stands to gain in negotiations, and deals with this nation. However, the reality is otherwise, while India’s culture may gain more foothold in other nations, it is a stretch to believe that India would be favoured in negotiations and deals.
By simple reasoning, one understands that a second, third, or fourth generation Indian-migrant/Indian-origin individual having lived his/her entire life in a foreign nation, with non-Indians, particularly in highly developed nations like the US, or UK cannot understand the lifestyle, and circumstances in India.
Further, it is definite that the loyalty of any leader, even if an Indian-origin individual shall lie only with their nation, and not with any other nation. Moreover, given the leader holds roots in India, their work is subjected to closer scrutiny, to ensure the nation’s interests are not subdued. Any decision by the leader which favours India is bound to be received critically by the people of their nation. It would also, be politically imprudent on part of an Indian-origin leader to subject himself wilfully to such a critical examination.
Irrespective of this, through social media, Indians have been urged to clap and cheer at the achievements of these leaders, with the propaganda, being, that a person of Indian-origin has taken charge of an important office in a nation. The victory of an individual merely having some amount of “Indian blood” should not be the cause of celebration for Indians. In the instance of Rishi Sunak, one can see this unnecessary jubilance very clearly. There is no reason why Sunak’s Hindu identity is being glorified. The only possible reason is to give Hindu-nationalism a boost.