Huge Gujarati presence
The key reason for the success in race relations is the atmosphere of dialogue and the nature of the East African immigrants. As Winstone says: ?We were lucky we got a commercial class of Gujarati Hindus from East Africa between 1968 and 1975. The sheer business culture has saved us. The Gujarati Hindus are the dominant community. They are flexible, hard-working, always try to fit in the larger society, while preserving Indian cultural institutions. They came with some capital and complete families. They had a sense of commerce, having been businessmen or skilled workers in East Africa. A very different group went to places like Oldham or Bradford, who were mainly rural, poorly educated Muslims, who became unemployable when mills closed down. Leicester offered jobs in the textile industry, cheap housing, and it did not take long for Gujarati Hindus to accumulate capital. In the 1970s, they were treated like dirt, and kept their heads down. But the 1980s saw them striking out on their own. Today they employ Whites or have bought the very places where they once worked.?
The Asians from East Africa were well practised at blending in. Unlike the mostly Urdu-speaking Muslim population of cities like Bradford, Leicester’sGujarati and Punjabi population were on the second leg of their long journey from India. They had already developed strategies for integrating, as a minority ethnic culture, into an alien society. Leicester has thus come to be termed a Gujarati city due to the strong Gujarati Hindu component, and the City Council aptly has entered into an arrangement with the local government of Rajkot. Not surprising that Leicester alone contributed three million pounds for Gujarat earthquake relief compared to the British government’s11 million pounds.
Unlike elsewhere in Britain, there were no incidents in Leicester after the Babri structure demolition in December 1992. Winstone says: ?Hindu-Muslim relations is a different ball game here.? Most Muslims are involved in trade and in partnerships with Hindus. The multi-religious character is evident from the number of religious places in Leicester (see box). Relations between the Hindu and Muslim communities are less tense than that in the Indian subcontinent, and this has encouraged Prof Richard Bonney, director of the Centre for the History of Religious and Political Pluralism, University of Leicester, to propose an Institute for the Study of Indo-Pakistan Relations in Leicester. ?Here Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs get on together pretty well and many of them are successful in business. Good community relations are good for business. The lessons need to be learned on the Indian subcontinent. Leicester is away from the heady atmosphere of the subcontinent, yet close to significant Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities?, he says. The picture of harmony clearly promises to hold good for the foreseeable future.