Rajinder Singh is a retired school teacher who migrated to the UK in 1967 and ironically started supporting a party that demanded the forcible repatriation of all non-Europeans. Now, he is about to go down in history as the first non-White mascot of the British National Party.
23 Feb, 2010
Rajinder Singh is set to make history as the first non-White mascot of the British National Party.
It’s one of those funny times, when you don’t know whether to celebrate or be glum. Forced by the courts to amend its fascist constitution, the all-White British National Party (BNP) has voted to allow Asians and Blacks into its ranks. “We are happy to accept anyone as a member provided they agree with us that this country should remain fundamentally British,” BNP leader Nick Griffin told the press following the party’s ‘extraordinary meeting’ at a secret address in Essex on St Valentine’s Day, when this ‘extraordinary’ decision was taken. And the first ethnic minority entrant into the party will be a Sardar named Rajinder Singh. So, do we see this as a nail in the coffin of racism, or the spread of a virus?
Some 300 of the BNP’s paid members, out of a total of 14,000, attended the special session called after the Central London County Court ordered the party to comply with the country’s race relations laws or face legal action by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. They voted unanimously to change their Whites-only policy, even as they complained of being victimised. The BNP’s membership rules can no longer discriminate on grounds of race, religion or any other ‘protected characteristic’ specified under the equality legislation. The commitment means the party, which previously admitted only ‘indigenous Caucasians’ and those from connected ethnic groups, will now be required to open its doors to anyone who wishes to join its ranks.
However, none, including party leader Griffin, is expecting a deluge of applications from Black and Asian people. “We expect a trickle, rather than a flood,” admits Griffin with a smile. But Griffin is more than happy to welcome Rajinder Singh. “I will be absolutely delighted to shake his hand and give him his membership card. People like him accept the party’s position,” says Griffin.
The 78-year-old Sikh has been Griffin’s fan since 2001, when he first heard his Islamophobic diatribe. “I thought, it’s amazing, he has said what I have been thinking since my childhood. Since then, I couldn’t keep away,” he says. He began to write letters of support to Griffin, and has voted for the BNP at every election since. He even went as far as providing Griffin with a character reference at his trial for inciting racial hatred in 2005.
Born in West Punjab in 1931, Singh was forced to leave his home during the Partition and blames Muslims for the violence. A father of two, he left India in 1967 and migrated to Wellingborough in Northamptonshire. A retired primary school teacher, his anti-Muslim feelings strike a chord with some of the BNP’s rhetoric—‘Islam is dangerous’, ‘Britain is becoming an Islamic republic’.
Singh is not a religious man and generally doesn’t wear a turban, but ever since he has been discovered by the BNP, he wears it for effect. “The message in favour of the BNP carries more weight coming from a turban-wearing Sikh,” says Singh. Fellow Sikhs have shunned him, but he doesn’t seem to mind. “Every Hindu and Sikh should be praising the BNP and thanking God that something has appeared that may guarantee that this country is not overwhelmed,” he says.
The BNP has been Whites-only since its foundation in 1982 by John Tyndall, a former chairman of the extreme right-wing National Front. Tyndall, who enjoyed wearing the Nazi uniform and called Hitler’s Mein Kampf his ‘Bible’, made non-European ‘re-immigration’ his mantra when he took over the National Front in the early 1970s. Later, factional divides in the National Front led to Tyndall leaving the party in 1980 and forming the New National Front. Two years later, he changed its name to the British National Party. Tyndall did little to hide the fact that he believed in ‘White supremacy’ and that his was a neo-Nazi organisation. He was even convicted for inciting racial hatred in 1986 and imprisoned thrice.
In 1999, Tyndall lost the BNP’s leadership to Griffin, a Cambridge law graduate, who won on a ticket of ‘modernising’ the party for the 21st century and toning down its image. He changed the party’s ‘forcible’ repatriation of non-European immigrants to ‘voluntary’. Over the last decade, while ‘White nationalism’ remained the BNP’s ideology, Griffin brought the movement into mainstream politics. In 2002, for the first time, the BNP tasted electoral success, with local council victories in immigrant urban areas. Last June, Griffin and another party member were elected to the European Parliament.
“The opening of the party’s membership to non-Whites is also part of this spurious process of ‘modernisation’,” says Matthew d’Ancona, a columnist who claims the BNP has never been more dangerous. “In a matter of weeks, it will field a number of parliamentary candidates in the general election. It is bad enough that the party is represented in town halls and Strasbourg. But Griffin’s election as an MP would be much, much worse,” stresses d’Ancona.
The fact that the amendment to the constitution is purely cosmetic is obvious to most. In an email to party supporters, Griffin pointed out: ‘We continue to avow the right of the indigenous British to be recognised, and fight to secure and defend those rights. The fact that a few of those non-indigenous friends who agree with us will henceforth be card-carrying members instead of watchers from the sidelines will change very little,’ he wrote, adding, ‘Except that our enemies will have far more trouble making the ‘racist’ tag stick against us.’
“A shiny new constitution does not a democratic party make. It would be a pyrrhic victory, to say the least, if anyone thought that giving the BNP a facelift would make the slightest difference to a body with so much racism and hatred pumping through its veins,” says Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty.
Singh seems to be oblivious to these arguments. “They are trying to soften up. It’s a positive move if they get people like me. If I’m sitting in a BNP meeting, they won’t say ‘Throw all of them out’ because they’ll realise one of ‘them’ is among ‘us’,” says Singh. He’s also not worried that the BNP will always consider non-Whites as ‘guests’ in the UK. He believes voluntary repatriation in exchange for cash is “something excellent”, since then, only those truly loyal to Britain would choose to stay. As for the BNP’s plans to give native Britons preference in the job market, he argues this has always been the case unofficially, and spelling it out in law won’t make any difference to people like him. In short, Singh knows he is being exploited to give the BNP a legitimate face, but is a willing partner. “All parties use people. If they don’t, they will fail,” he says.
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