Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 16:15 UK

Why Indians 'need voice' in NI

Belfast's main Hindu Temple where over recent years the number of worshippers in decreasing in numbers and getting
Belfast's main Hindu Temple where over recent years the number of worshippers is decreasing in numbers and getting older

Some Asians living in Northern Ireland feel culturally neglected. Sanjiv Buttoo, a reporter from the BBC's Asian Network, found out why.

Northern Ireland has one of the smallest Asian communities in the United Kingdom.

Belfast's Indian community centre was set up in the 1970s in an old disused church. It houses a Hindu temple, meeting rooms, sports facilities and a wedding hall.

Once a month, the community get together to pray.

But they feel left out because the rest of the UK's Asian community do not even know they exist.

Chairman Ashok Sharma said: "We feel we have been ex-communicated... because the whole concentration is on the community living in the mainland of London.

"We should be recognised, we should be contacted. Our voice should be heard."

Jeevan Jayaprakash, a local GP, said it was only when he moved away that he realised how much of his culture he had missed.

"I went to university in England. It was only then I realised that actually we were quite isolated over here," he said.

"I love Indian films. Here is it very rare you get an Indian film to watch."

Belfast's only Sikh Gurudwara which serves now serves only 30 families and is situated in a small terraced house
Belfast's only Sikh Gurudwara which is situated in a small terraced house

The biggest Sikh community in Northern Ireland lives in Londonderry.

But in Belfast, the Gurudwara or temple, only attracts 30 families.

The women, in particular, feel that they miss out.

One woman said she got her Indian groceries from the local Chinese, because no-where stocked Indian food.

She added that there was "no clothes, no jewellery".

"We all get our clothes and stuff out of catalogues, because there are no shops or anything here," she said.

One said that having lived in a vibrant Indian community, she missed it.

"Just that whole feeling of going into a Sari shop. It's just brilliant, you can speak Hindi," she said. Clothing, everything is handy, it's on the spot. Dining, Indian restaurants."

The main reason the Asian community does not prosper in this part of the UK is that young people leave to go to universities in places like Birmingham, Bradford and London and never come back.

However, on a more positive note they feel racism is less prevalent in Northern Ireland than in England, as Asians integrate better into the communities in Northern Ireland.

The Jayaprakash brothers from Belfast, the eldest is now a GP
The Jayaprakash brothers from Belfast, the eldest is now a GP

Dentist Vivek Tohani, who is also a volunteer youth worker, said: "We are not totally cut off, but that stretch of water, I do feel, is barrier.

"You tend to find racism is a lot less here. I would feel more threatened on the mainland. And Belfast has changed, it's undergone a renaissance, a regeneration."

Lord Diljit Rana of Malone is one of the success stories from the Asian community.

The Punjab-born father of two came to Northern Ireland as a 28-year-old man and has made a huge fortune.

He said many in his community feel cut off.

"Because of the distance we are forgotten about," he said. "For people to come here it takes another flight and expense, so it's a difficulty."

But retired businessman Surinder Tohani from Ballymoney said the standard of living among Asians living in Northern Ireland was much higher than in England.

"The people are quite well off here because, being in a business community, they all did well."



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