South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM) was set up in 2018 to commemorate and celebrate South Asian cultures, histories, and communities, as well as their rich and diverse contributions to UK culture in everything from food and music to clothing and language.
It offers the chance to reflect on how Britain has been shaped by people from South Asia, with the dates of the event symbolic of this relationship: SAHM begins each year on 18 July, the date that the Indian Independence Act 1947 gained royal assent from King George VI, and ends on 17 August, the date that the Radcliffe Line was published in 1947, which set out where the border between India, West Pakistan, and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
By encouraging South Asians to share their own stories, this year’s SAHM offers an opportunity to showcase what it means to be South Asian in the 21st century, while also reflecting on how the past has shaped the present, and people of all backgrounds and ethnicities are encouraged to engage with SAHM’s events and workshops to better understand how South Asian culture has shaped the history and culture of the UK, and vice versa.
Bill Acharjee, a member of UNISON South East’s Black members committee, said:
“My ancestral heritage hails from South Asia and, in my formative years, it was explained to me that the impact of British rule in India was seen to be positive because of the introduction of modern schools and hospitals, and the development of India’s railway systems.
“However, in researching this I found that British rule had many negative consequences for indigenous Indians, for reasons including the divide and rule policy, unfair tax practices, a lack of access to education, British manufactured goods destroying local industries, and the encouragement to switch from growing food to growing cotton leading to starvation of thousands of Indians.
“I think South Asian Heritage Month provides an amazing opportunity for everyone in the UK to enhance their knowledge and awareness of cultural history, which for many of us was not covered by our school curricula. Exploring how these cultures have affected, and been affected by Britain, can give us a better and more well-balanced historical perspective.”
How to get involved
Find a full list of SAHM events at southasianheritage.org.uk, with activities ranging from art workshops in London to a textiles exhibition at the University of the Arts London.