There’s just over three weeks to go until a unique reunion event takes place in Leicester for people to reflect on the mass exodus of Ugandan Asians 50 years ago.
The event, organised by Rajiv Popat and Priti Raichura, is taking place on Saturday, September 10 at Leicester’s Winstantly House.
It is an opportunity for affected individuals to remember and reflect on the significant historic event, and also to reunite with people they perhaps haven’t seen in 50 years.
It will showcase short reels of people from Leicester who have shared their stories and experiences of being forced out of Uganda 50-years-ago. Over 70,000 Asians were given just 90 days to leave their homes on order of brutal military dictator Idi Amin.
Of these, over 12,000 settled in Leicester.
“It’s important to commemorate what happened 50 years ago because countless lives were devastated by the decision of one man,” said Mr Popat, who works as a news reporter for ITV Central.
“Lives were turned upside down and people traumatised by what they saw and what they experienced. Many continue to suffer to this day. Very few speak about the brutality of Idi Amin which led to widespread bloodshed and chaos. They’ll never forget their loved ones who were kidnapped, raped or murdered.”
As well as reflecting on the trauma of the mass exodus, the event will also celebrate the success that Ugandan Asians have had in rebuilding their lives in the city.
On the evening there will be an array of entertainment on offer, including African dancers and Indian singers. There will also be a three course meal with an ‘East African twist.
“The evening will be an opportunity to reflect and remember,” added Mr Popat.
“Despite the huge upheaval, heartache and pain of having to leave the country they loved, thousands of people settled in the UK and transformed cities like Leicester with their incredible entrepreneurial skills. We believe that should be celebrated. After all, we wouldn’t have the biggest Diwali festivities outside of India on the Golden Mile without the hard work of Asians who’ve made the city their home for the last 50 years.”
Rajiv has a personal connection to Uganda, as his family was forced out of the country back in 1972.
Priti Raichura told the Leicester Times that she is putting her passion into the not-for-profit event, in order to honour her late father, and all the other Ugandan Asians who had to rebuild their lives when they were thrown out of the country.
“We are doing this to applaud our own families and the hardship they went through, but also to celebrate how they have come out the other end,” she said.
“This event is for them to come together to reminisce and remember what it was like, but also for others who might just want to know more about Uganda.
“For me, putting this event together has been a passion project and I’m sure it’ll be emotional,” she added. “A night to remember for sure.”
Over the past six months, Priti and Rajiv have been interviewing local people from Leicester about their experience of Uganda and recording them on film.
Poignant clips from these interviews will be played throughout the night. One of those interviewed was Priti’s own Mum. However, she regrets that she wasn’t able to capture her own father’s voice and story on camera, as he passed away 12 years ago.
“It was important to us to archive all these stories. I fear that if we leave it any later these stories will get lost,” revealed Ms Raichura.
“My own children ask me about my Dad and they are bamboozled when I tell them that in Uganda, at one point he had a gun to his head. They’re like “that doesn’t happen”. They can’t comprehend it,” she revealed emotionally. “But that was the reality and it’s important that we don’t forget that, and that we’re able to pass that on to future generations.
“I feel that I owe it not just to my Dad, but to all those older people that sacrificed their lives for all the second and third generation Ugandans. We owe it to them,” she added. “They worked really hard and I don’t want that history of what they went through to be lost.”
All proceeds from the event will go to charity to celebrate the achievements of Ugandan Asians since arriving into the UK.
Tickets and tables can be purchased in advance. Call Priti or Rajiv on 07866 727181 or 07973 461165 for more information, or visit the Facebook page: ‘Ugandan Exodus Movement of the People’.