South Asian stories

Welcome to August’s Frontline, curated by members of the CSP BAME network to celebrate the UK’s second South Asian Heritage Month 

In Front
Srikesavan Sabapathy and Gita Ramdharry members of the CSP BAME network

The region of South Asia consists of eight countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan and Afghanistan. Pakistan emerged from independence negotiations between Britain and India, splitting from mainly Hindu majority India and becoming a Muslim majority country in 1947. Bangladesh was originally East Pakistan until 1971. 

Sri Lanka was also a major British colony gaining independence in 1948. The Maldives and Afghanistan were under British protectorate prior to their independence, British influence in Nepal ceased in 1923 and Bhutan has never been occupied. 

The historical context of South Asian migration to the UK is steeped in colonial history, starting with the British rule in the region. Following the abolition of slavery, colonial rulers indentured South Asians, shipping them out as bonded labour to the Caribbean, East Asia and Africa.

They existed in racially segregated societies for many years and further waves of migration occurred after World War II to build railways in East Africa. Many of these countries remained part of the Commonwealth after their independence.

With the Queen continuing as head of state for many Commonwealth countries, the attachment to the UK remained strong, and the UK invited its former citizens to help rebuild the country following the war.

Commonwealth monies and people contributed significantly to the formation of the NHS, leading to a strong representation of South Asians in healthcare for many decades. In 1949 the NHS launched recruitment drives across the empire/Commonwealth and by 1955 there were official recruitment programmes across 16 current and former British colonies. 

To reflect the diversity and varied history of British South Asians, there is now a yearly celebration of South Asian heritage.

The diversity of the region includes its major religions, as well as distinct ethnic groups and cultures. Migration has added influences from the Caribbean, East Asia and Africa in terms of languages, food and culture. 

In this issue we put the spotlight on our stories, which are as individual as the cultures we come from. We share our experiences of how our identities and histories are interwoven with our work.

  • Srikesavan Sabapathy is a trauma physiotherapist at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford University Hospitals and Gita Ramdharry is a consultant allied health professional and honorary associate professor

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