Gujarat has always been a problem for the British. I’ve just returned from there, from the Gandhi Ashram. Ever since there has been a Mahatma and a Sardar Patel, Gujarat has been a problem for the British.
I am Gujarati. And it pains me when anyone criticises Gujarat. When they forget, the Mahatma was Gujarati – the man who was the inspiration for Mandela and Obama. When Indians forget the Gujarati, Sardar Patel, my relative through my maternal grandmother, was the man who created the Union of India. Without Gujarat and these two Gujaratis, let no one dare deny, there would not be an Independent India, there would not be a unified India.
So how should Gujarat be treated? A State in the world’s largest democracy. Well with a hell of a lot more respect than it has been. To essentially provide lower diplomatic relations than with China on the pre-text of human rights, serves neither the cause of human rights, or of British interests. As Rami Ranger points out, even the Central Government of India, did not stop dialogue with the Government of Narendra Modi.
But more importantly, British Gujaratis and NRIs did not stop dialogue with the British Government.
And it is that dialogue which meant that as Manoj Ladwa puts it, ‘In fact, if all of the 600,000 British Gujaratis and NRIs said that they had a role to play, they too would be all right.’
From the highest, those in the Lords, like Lord Dholakia, Lord GK Noon and Lord Dolar Popat who showed me the innumerable letters he had sent various government officials especially given his personal friendship with the Prime Minister and voice in the governing Conservative Party, down all the way to the commoner, Manoj Ladwa and everyone in between – this happened because Gujaratis in Britain matter. And so they should – to save Britain from herself at times. The spirit of the Mahatma and the Sardar lives – they too were as much interested in saving Britain from herself, and their respective ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ attitudes to the British are reflected in the diaspora.
I first met Narendrabhai Modi about a decade ago at the offices of Asian Voice. I was sitting in the audience, and as he finished his speech, and left to go upstairs with CB Patel, Manoj Ladwa who organised the visit, turned to me, and asked me to join them. I was touched. And since that day to this, I know the work behind the scenes Manoj, a British educated lawyer, has been doing for UK Gujarat relations. When more recently Manoj and CB Patel again organised a UK conference with Narendrabhai appearing via video, Manoj kindly introduced me – simply – ‘Alpesh is from Karamsad’ and to that Narendra replied, simply, ‘Jai Sardar, Jai Karamsad’. Really, the British need only understand that Narendrabhai sees himself carrying the legacy of Sardar Patel, to understand the man and to know what he is, and is not capable of.
Alpesh B Patel