Indians 'rejoice' as Rishi Sunak becomes first Hindu prime minister of the UK

Indians 'rejoice' as Rishi Sunak becomes first Hindu prime minister of the UK
Rishi Sunak has roots in the Indian subcontinent and East Africa. Dozens of Indian news outlets and social media users celebrated his appointment as the new Prime Minister of the UK.
4 min read
26 October, 2022
Rishi Sunak celebrated Diwali at 10 Downing Street after he was elected Prime Minister [Getty]

Indians are celebrating the appointment of Rishi Sunak, a Hindu, as prime minister of the UK, the first person of the colour to lead the country.

Sunak, who formally became the prime minister of the UK on Tuesday, has roots in East Africa and the Indian subcontinent. He was elected as leader of the Conservative Party on Diwali, a major Hindu festival

At 42, he is also the youngest UK prime minister for 200 years.

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‘Rishi Sunak becomes UK's first Indian-origin Prime Minister’, read a headline in India Today, while The Times of India went with ‘Rishi Sunak, a 'proud Hindu', is new UK PM’.

Some even used colonial references, such as India's The Telegraph, which said ‘Sunak: Ex-India Company set to run Britain’ - alluding to the firm that colonised large parts of India with its mercenary forces.

Sunak's grandparents originated from Gujranwala, British India, which today lies in Pakistan’s Punjab province and migrated to East Africa. His parents later left East Africa for the UK, marrying there.

Indian Prime Minister congratulated Sunak on his elevation to the premier.

"Warmest congratulations @RishiSunak! As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030. Special Diwali wishes to the 'living bridge' of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership," he tweeted.

Prominent journalist Nidhi Razdan also celebrated his appointment, tweeting that "the UK has a non white, Hindu as PM for the first time. That is something to celebrate, as the UK embraces its diversity".

JameelS, whose tweet was retweeted by Indian opposition politician and anti-colonial academic Shashi Tharoor, wrote: "We know what he would have said about Rishi Sunak’s overt faith in the practice of Hinduism. 'Hindus are a beastly people with a beastly religion,' Churchill notoriously sneered. And here British Govt will be led by a man who not only practices his Hindu faith but does so openly."

Other Indians celebrated the fact that a member of a minority group had become prime minister, asking when similar progress would be made in India - coinciding with the alleged persecution of Muslims by the Modi government.

While several Muslims have previously assumed the Indian presidency, the post is largely ceremonial.

Only one member of a minority community, Manmohan Singh, who was from the Sikh community, has risen to India's most powerful office - that of prime minister. 

"The BJP, currently the major pole of Indian polity, under Modi has no minister [at] cabinet or state [level] who is a Muslim. The BJP does not have a single Muslim MP. Says a lot about its attitude to India’s largest minority. Yes carry on cheering Sunak & diversity," journalist Swati Chaturvedi tweeted. 

The UK's first prime minister of Indian origin faces tough challenges ahead, presiding over a polarised country beset with major economic challenges that have seen costs of basic goods soar and inflation rise to the highest level in recent memory.