Lost in the middle: Anglo Indians

Lost in the middle: Anglo Indians

Of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha, polls have been heavily contested in all of them barring 2 seats. While winning the seats usually require months of gruelling from political parties across the country, these seats are allocated based on nominations under the Anglo-Indian criteria. In fact, Anglo-Indians are the only ethnic community to have representatives nominated to the Lok Sabha. The incumbent nominated Anglo Indian MPs are George Baker and Richard Hay. Their terms last until 2020.

The term Anglo-Indian doesn’t have a conclusive definition. The modern definition, however, refers to someone with mixed Eurasian ancestry whose native language in English. The community began to grow during the British Raj and comprises of people who were born to British and Indian parents. Anti-miscegenation laws enforced by the British following the Revolt of 1857 prevented intermingling of Indians and the British leading the Anglo-Indians to form their own community. Popular Anglo-Indians include ‘Gandhi’ actor Ben Kingsley.

The British failed to create space for the community following the independence of colonies. However, the founding fathers who penned the constitution of India accommodate them in the Lok Sabha.

"Notwithstanding anything contained in article 67 of this Constitution, the President may, if he is of opinion that the Anglo Indian Community is not adequately represented in the House of the People, nominate not more than two members of the community to the House of the People." Article 293 of the Indian Constitution reads.

Frank Anthony was the first Anglo-Indian MP nominated by the Indian National Congress and represented the community eight times. He was the President of the All India Anglo-Indian Association.

“Let us cling and cling, tenaciously, to all that we hold dear, our language, our way of life and our distinctive culture, but let us always remember that we are Indians. The more we love and are loyal to India, the more will India love and be loyal to us.”  Frank Anthony said based on archives retrieved from the Lucknow Journal.

A large number of Anglo-Indians are said to have lived in Austin town, a suburb of the Bangalore Cantonment. Anglo Indians are also said to have lived in other suburbs within Bangalore Cantonment such as Richmond Town and Langford Town.

The Anglo-Indian nomination to the Lok Sabha was supposed to stop by the end of the 1960s but the reservations continued way into the late 90s and 2000s. The reservations are expected to expire by 2020. George Baker, however, has claimed that he proposes to ask the Prime Minister to extend the reservation of the seat. He claims that complete assimilation of Anglo-Indians into Indian society would take another 50 years, the Guardian reported.

The population of Anglo-Indians have fallen considerably since independence from over 2 million to an estimated 300,000 presently. While speaking to DH, Troy Valentine Hodges, a governing body member of the All India Anglo-Indian Association claims that the number of Anglo Indians have been cut by half in the previous decade alone, most of which he attributes to the incumbent NDA government.

Excerpts from the Interview

Why do Anglo-Indians leave the country and settle elsewhere?

We talk different, we live different, we eat different. We get much better jobs abroad. Even the maids and servants who work in our homes don’t speak Hindi. So, when you go out, you speak very bad Hindi and you don’t fit in. Living in a metropolitan city, it's not a problem. But, if you live in other places, you have a problem. If I go abroad, I won’t have a lot of problems to get settled.

What is the role of the members nominated to the Parliament under the Anglo-Indian criteria?

There are presently three Anglo-Indians in the parliament who are Anglo-India. There’s Derek O’ Brien who is nominated by the TMC and is a member of the Rajya Sabha. Apart from him, we have Richard Hay and George Baker who are Anglo-Indian representatives for the Lok Sabha. According to me, they haven’t really done anything for the community.

What kind of influence has the BJP government had on the Anglo-Indian community?

The MLAs and MPs from BJP don’t like us. They don’t like any of us because of the way in which we live. However, even the Congress Party hasn’t done anything for us.

The Exit Polls were released yesterday. Most of the polls suggest an overwhelming victory for the BJP. How does the community feel about this?

We are depressed. I am definitely depressed. We don’t have names on the voting list. I have been voting for the last 25 years and our names aren’t there on the list anymore. This has never happened before. I even wrote a letter to the election commissioner of Haryana (Chief Electoral Officer) saying that my name is not in the list.

What is the future like for the Anglo-Indian community?

My parents were born here. We have been living here for many years, but I am scared. I am scared for my wife and my children. At this rate, I will leave the country. I will leave. Most of my family already lives in Australia and the United States.

14 of the 29 states in the country have a seat nominated for Anglo-Indians in the state legislative assembly. The present Anglo-Indian MLA from Karnataka is Vinisha Nero.