Balwinder Rana was 16 when he first spoke to a white person. It was 1963, on a sunlit but freezing spring day, and he had just landed at Heathrow airport, after taking his first plane journey, on his first trip outside Punjab, India. He had arrived to join his father and his brother, who had moved to England two years earlier.
“How long are you staying here?” the white immigration officer asked. “It’s up to my father,” a sheepish Rana replied.
Fifty-eight years later, Rana has devoted most of his time since to fighting racism and fascism. He founded the first Indian Youth Federation in Gravesend, Kent, in 1969, spurring on a decade of Asian youth mobilisation in response to the rising power of the National Front. He also worked full-time for the Anti-Nazi League for two years from 1977 and was a key figure in marches protesting against racist murders, such as the Battle of Lewisham that same year and the Welling protest against the British National Party (BNP) in 1993. In 2013, he formed Sikhs Against the English Defence League (EDL) and is still a convener of his local Stand Up To Racism group.
Read the interview in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 24/11/21]