Identity, religion, migration: Three British Asians in conversation

They share their experiences as second generation Asians growing up in Britain.

Web Desk August 12, 2013
Three British Asians their experiences as second generation Asians growing up in Britain and wider issues of nationhood, identity, religion, migration in Britain today. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

John Pandit from Asian Dub Foundation and RichMix, Anita Sharma from Inquest, and The Samosa’s Anwar Akhtar are second generation Asians who have grown up in Britain. In this video directed by Jane Barnwell and Rob Napoletani, they discuss their experiences and wider issues of nationhood, identity, religion, migration in Britain today.

“Its not so much what you think you are, it is what other people perceive you to be,” says John, whose father is from India and mother is from Ireland.

John said that he does not have any allegiance to Britain despite growing up there and that’s something that has grown as he has grown. He added that he is “more interested in a wider notion of citizenship.”

Anita grew up in a predominately Asian area so her cultural influences were mostly Asian. When she was 11, her family moved to an area where they were the first Asian family on the street. They were met with some “negative interest” and racial attacks and various mocking gestures.

She also spoke about the “shock on people’s faces” upon seeing an Indian woman travelling when she went abroad. She mentioned that the cultural problems do get easier to handle with the “merging of cultures” and because Britain has become “much more culturally diverse.”

Anwar said he feels that “there is a kind of commonality of experience” between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who all define themselves as British Asians despite following different religions.

Anwar advised young people to decide their identities for themselves, “it is not for anyone else to tell you who you are.”

The video showed the varied experiences of three individuals in different situations and gave insight to the impact of this on their opinions and identities.

This film is part of Pakistan Calling,  a UK and Pakistan project by and   please visit  for more films on Pakistani civil society organisations, social entrepreneurs and - The RSA and The Samosa launched to promote constructive cross-cultural dialogue between Britain and Pakistan. Show your support by watching the film.


Parvez | 10 years ago | Reply

At a very basic level the concept of dual nationality is flawed. Many countries including India do not subscribe to this and so should we, as it would remove the doubts and double standards that it carries.

A. Khan | 10 years ago | Reply

@Muhammad Usman Ghani:

What has GoP got to do with it ? Pakistan does not encourage immigration but rather emigration.

Personally, having lived in UK for a number of years, I fail to see what more their government can do for assimilation. In fact their policies, in my opinion, are working against assimilation. See how so many people still cannot speak English even though they have lived in UK for over 40 years. One of the reasons is that the government provides services in their mother tongue from driving tests to social welfare.

Also, its not the government's job to change people's attitudes. Race always plays a factor in people not quite assimilating as the host race is hostile to the immigrants. The government there has made it illegal to discriminate against people on race and ethnicity. How many laws are there in Pakistan of a similar nature ?

Let's not discount the fact that most of the earlier immigrants were uneducated, didn't speak the language and tended to stick together (and still do) resulting in the ghettoisation of certain areas. Also,I noticed that desis tend to play the victim role very quickly. I could go on but I know most people will not agree with me. But mine is first hand experience.

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