story icon The Asian Youth Movements

Contributed by: Anandi Ramamurthy
1976 - 1987

Demonstration in support of Anwar Ditta 1980
Demonstration in support of Anwar Ditta 1980
Cover of a booklet produced by the Bradford 12 National Mobilizing committee to celebrate the aquittal of the Bradford 12
Cover of a booklet produced by the Bradford 12 National Mobilizing committee to celebrate the aquittal of the Bradford 12
Leaflet in support of the workers at the Kewal Brother factory fighting for union recognition
Leaflet in support of the workers at the Kewal Brother factory fighting for union recognition

This archiving project is being carried out by the Department of Humanities, University of Central Lancashire and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The work is supported by an advisory committee, which includes individuals who were involved in these campaigns, academics and archivists followed by Dr Anandi Ramamurthy, project director of Tandana - Glowworm writes of the struggle for social justice

By the late 1970s, the large-scale migrations from the Asian sub-continent and of Asians from Africa to Britain had taken place. The period saw the onset of a recession and with this many migrant groups became the scapegoats of discontent. Some people paid for this discontent and racism with their lives. Gurinder Singh Chaggar killed by racists in 1976 was one of them. His death galvanised the youth of Southall to stand together, in defence of themselves and their community. Out of their anger and determination the Southall Youth Movement was born. The courage of the youth of Southall witnessed through the media by communities across Britain and the deaths of other young people such as Akhtar Ali Beg in East London inspired youth in towns and cities across Britain to organise. Bradford, Leicester, Newham, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Bolton, Blackburn and many other towns formed organisations to defend themselves. TANDANA-GLOWWORM archive is a collection of leaflets, posters, banners and other material produced by the AYMs and AYOs and the campaigns, which they supported.

'Come what may, we are here to stay'

'Here to stay, here to fight'

These were two of the most central slogans used by The Asian Youth Movements. They captivate the commitment of the youth involved to support families fighting racist immigration laws; promoting and winning the right of communities to defend themselves; and supporting the struggle of working peoples as well as struggling for justice internationally. The Asian Youth Movements were disenchated about the policies of both the labour and conservative parties.

Immigration cases such as Anwar Ditta's: a mother divided from her children for six years were eventually won through the constant support and campaigning by members of the Asian Youth Movement and others. The youth were also sensitive to the importance of solidarity with workers struggles and supported strikes by Asian workers for union recognition such as the Aire Valley Yarns Strike in Yorkshire, as well as national strikes such as the Miners Strike by mobilising support from the Asian communities and collecting money and food for the strikers. The plight of other nations struggling under colonial violence and injustice was also recognised through support for the Irish Hunger Strikers in 1981 and support for Palestine in the form of solidarity demonstrations and pickets.

The most crucial issue for all The Asian Youth Movements however, was the right of self-defence, the right of both the community and the individual to defend themselves against racist and fascist attack. This was the right to live without being criminalized for defending oneself. The case of the Bradford 12 glavanised this issue. The twelve young men were arrested on charges of conspiracy to cause explosives after the uprisings in many cities in July 1981. They were all members of the United Black Youth League, a splinter group from the Bradford AYM. They challenged the state on the right of a community to defend itself from fascist attacks and won. As Tariq Mehmood, a leading defendant in the trial stated at his acquittal, 'The state made a mountain out of a mole hill and in so doing made a monument to our beliefs.'

The legacy of The Asian Youth Movements is one in which we see unity built across communities, between black people, the working class and all progressive peoples- black and white, between black people and anti-colonial struggles. One of their most powerful legacies was their secularism. Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians worked together in the struggle for justice. Inspired by the anti-colonial movements, socialism and the black power movement of the United States, the AYMs spoke out against, not just racism, but wider exploitation and outrage.

For more information about these campaigns and The Asian Youth Movements see . The full site with a searchable database will be ready in April 2005.

* * * * *
  back to all stories *   use this in your story *  

back to all stories Back to all Stories

Contribute Your Story to Moving Here your story

* * * *