During special sittings of the Houses of Parliament in London in the days since Queen Elizabeth II passed away, aged 96, at her Balmoral Castle in Scotland on September 8, British Indian peers and members of Parliament joined colleagues in the State Mourning and paid tributes to the late monarch. The focus was on Her Majesty’s enduring love for India and the Commonwealth, a legacy that would be cherished and nurtured by King Charles III.
Here is a snapshot of some of the tributes from British Indian parliamentarians in Parliament:
Baroness Usha Prashar
“When we lose someone so reassuring and constantly present in our lives, we lose a part of ourselves, but in the words of Rabindranath Tagore: “We should not say in grief that she is no more but say in thankfulness that she was.” I say in thankfulness that she was.
“The Commonwealth bears no resemblance to the empires of the past. It is entirely a new conception, built on highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace.”
“I am sorry to say that seven decades on some people still do not comprehend that new conception. The genuineness with which Her Majesty related to the leaders of the Commonwealth, even in the face of the most extraordinary challenges, such as apartheid, speaks volumes about the success of the Commonwealth under her leadership.
“Time and again, Her Majesty showed her ability to capture the mood and significance of each occasion. She was the balm in difficult times, calming, uniting friend and foe and treating everyone equally. Her Majesty coped with difficult times with fortitude, repositioned the monarchy with skill and subtlety, managed change and yet maintained continuity. There is much we can learn from her. She will remain, for me, an extraordinary source of inspiration.”
Baroness Sandy Verma
“I was reminded by many community groups to make sure that I mentioned her visits to Leicester, how they all loved it when she visited and how she made each and every one of those who were involved, whether from the charity sector or from local communities, feel so special. I just hope that, if I can be even a tiny bit in the shadows of the public service that Her Majesty was able to deliver, that would be a great achievement over my lifetime.
“We will all mourn her and of course will play our role in your Lordships’ House in making sure that we are the biggest support for King Charles III as we all come together to heal and offer strength to each other and to Her Majesty’s family. One of my community leaders asked me to end by saying ‘Shanti, shanti, shanti’. In Hindi that means “Peace, peace, peace”. May Her Majesty the Queen rest in peace.”
Lord Karan Bilimoria
“We loved Her Majesty the Queen and the world loved her. As she said, the price of love is grief. We are grieving. We have received messages from all over the world; I have received messages from the Middle East, India and America. We thank Her Majesty.
“She was the Queen of all Queens, the monarch of all monarchs. She was not only the most famous monarch in the world but the most respected, by miles… His Majesty King Charles III has not just a hard act to follow but an impossible one. Yet I hope — I know — that, looking ahead, like Isaac Newton, he will be able to say: “If I can see further, it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants”, and of one giant in particular. Your Majesty the Queen, we will miss you but your inspiration will live on with us forever.”
Lord Rami Ranger
“As an immigrant, I would like to pay tribute to Her Majesty The Queen. We all share this grief; we feel that we knew her, that she was part of our life and that we have lost a member of our own family. She was held in such affection.
“I have lived under her reign for nearly half a century. Her legacy is such that she was the most famous person in the world and the most dedicated public servant for over 70 years. She was a global icon. She carried out her public duties with the utmost grace and elegance, yet she was never remote from her subjects. She has been the nation’s figurehead throughout some of history’s darkest and most joyous moments, our constant in a world of perpetual change. It is with immense gratitude and sorrow that we bid her farewell with enduring respect and affection.”
Lord Raj Loomba
“In 1997, 50 years after India gained her independence, it was my privilege to organise the British Indian Golden Jubilee banquet in London, at which King Charles III, then of course the Prince of Wales, quoted the Vedas and expressed his thanks to India for its civilising influence on Britain. It was a moment that symbolised the transformation that had taken place from imperial power and subject nation to the familial ties of equals. The enduring strength of those ties between the world’s fifth and sixth-largest economies was illustrated again when the Prime Minister of India recalled the Queen’s warmth and kindness.
“Many tributes have alluded to the Queen’s greatness. To that, I would add my voice by saying that the greatness of Queen Elizabeth II lay not in harking back to the days of empire or in asserting dominance over others, but in the service and humility that characterised her reign and opened the door to new beginnings.”
Lord Dolar Popat
“The 21,000 engagements that Her Majesty undertook are testament to her sheer dedication to public service. She must have met thousands and thousands of people, but I will never forget the moment I met her, when she demonstrated the unique ability to make you feel special. She took a keen interest in we Ugandan Asians who emigrated to this country in the 1970s, most of whom were already her subjects.
“I will forever remain grateful that I got the opportunity to thank her for all that she did for Ugandan Asians.”
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Lord Indrajit Singh of Wimbledon
“I recall the privilege of accompanying Her Majesty during her first visit to a gurdwara in Leicester in 2002… It is measure of the high esteem in which she was held by the Sikh community that, in that small gurdwara, after the visit we needed a large truck to take away the many bouquets and posies of flowers.
“It was during her Golden Jubilee celebrations that the Queen made it clear that she was the sovereign for all her people and that our different religions show that God’s love extends in equal measure to the whole of humanity — a resonant echo of Sikh teachings that show the important commonalities between our different faiths.”
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Lord Ajay Kakkar
“Among those subjects who came from another Commonwealth country to settle here in the United Kingdom were my parents in 1961. I remember, growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, how they were deeply inspired and moved by Her Majesty’s commitment to the Commonwealth and all its peoples, and indeed to those people who decided to come and settle here in the United Kingdom.
“It was a vital part of ensuring, during that important period in our national history, that subjects of all backgrounds had the capacity to make their contribution, to participate in the life of our country and, in the case of my parents, to contribute to the work of the National Health Service.”
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Alok Sharma, COP26 Minister
“We all know that the Queen and the royal family have championed many causes, and one of those is protecting our environment and planet. The Queen was sadly not able to attend COP26 in person as she had intended, but she was kind enough to share a message with world leaders, acknowledging her pride in the leading role played by Prince Philip, Prince Charles — now our King — and Prince William in encouraging people to protect our precious planet. Ending her remarks, she said: ‘I, for one, hope that this conference will be one of those rare occasions where everyone will have the chance to rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true statesmanship.
‘It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit — written in the history books yet to be printed — will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity; and that you answered the call of those future generations.’
“That history is still to be written, and I hope and pray that the leaders of today, here in our own country and across the world, will heed the Queen’s wise words.”
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Priti Patel, Former Home Secretary
“Her late Majesty led a remarkable life, and she delivered an era and a reign that will stand out as being the most magnificent in the long and great history of our nation. As we mourn the end of her 70-year reign, we commemorate the great life she lived and the long and distinguished service she gave to our country, and we reflect on the importance of the monarch in our public life.
“At this particular moment in time, our thoughts and prayers are naturally with her family, and we offer our wholehearted support and commitment to the King — King Charles III. In the years ahead, while the face on our notes, coins and stamps will of course change, Her late Majesty will always occupy a special and affectionate place in the heart of this nation. God rest her soul, and God save the King.”
Seema Malhotra, Shadow Minister of Business
“Locally, we recall the special memory of a visit by Her late Majesty in October 2004 to open a new wing of the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha on Alice Way in Hounslow. The Gurdwara has a wonderful library, classes and community wellbeing and support services, all of which she saw. Her visit was just one example of her deep and genuine interest in communities across our nation and in all faiths that saw people from all backgrounds feel at ease, respected and connected to her.”
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Shailesh Vara, Former Northern Ireland Secretary
“As well as being our Queen, she was, of course, a global figure with a global understanding. This was summed up when she spoke at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2007, when she said: ‘Recognising that each one of us is made up of layer upon layer of identity and that each of our unique personalities has ties to culture, religion, community, country and beyond, is the essence of open and tolerant communities.’
“I will treasure her wonderful smile to me as I shook her hand and as I took the oath of allegiance holding the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu book used on such occasions. After the ceremony, I was allowed to keep the copy on which I had taken the oath. The occasion is all the more special for me because, while there was subsequently a virtual swearing into the Privy Council, I was the last person to be sworn personally by Her Majesty into the Privy Council.”
Gagan Mohindra, Conservative MP
“As many colleagues have said, she was a constant throughout our lives. I have said before that I regard myself as a son of the Commonwealth; one of the proudest realisations in the past 48 hours is that while we may have lost our Queen, the world has lost ‘the’ Queen.”