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In support of South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM), Northamptonshire Police is celebrating the work and contributions of officers and staff who proudly carry the police badge as British Asians.
SAHM was launched for the first time in July 2020 to celebrate the contributions of British South Asians to the UK’s economic fabric.
It runs from July 18 to August 17 and commemorates the cultures of the South Asian nations – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Sophia Perveen, who is a Faith Liaison Officer of Pakistani heritage, takes an active role in developing community relations and awareness both internally and externally, in order to create better understanding with the communities.
She says: “There are hundreds of years of history that connect Britain to South Asia and this year, the force is showcasing the contributions of some of our very own South Asian officers and staff. Whether it’s a curry on a Friday night, yoga class on Saturday morning or the Nadiya Hussain recipe you followed last week, one way or another, Asian culture is deeply rooted in people’s day to day lives and in modern British society.”
PCDA officer Noor Khan
PC Noor Khan is one of our new recruits through the police constable degree apprenticeship which trains you to be an officer while providing you with a fully funded policing degree. She says: “There is so much I love about my South Asian heritage like the food, clothes, celebrations and festivals, music, culture, the list could go on! However, something I find fascinating is the richness in the variety of languages spoken in Pakistan. There are over 70 languages! The national language is Urdu which has elements of Arabic and Persian. Coming from Lahore, I can speak both Punjabi and Urdu!
“Although I have grown up in the UK, my roots are still a big part of who I am and I’m proud to call myself a British Pakistani. I have the best of both worlds, being able to connect with both my heritage and where I’ve grown up.
Speaking about her experiences growing up, PC Khan says: “I went to a diverse and multicultural primary and secondary school which enabled me to discover a vast variety of cultures and backgrounds. I think it’s great being exposed to so many different cultures as you learn so much about one another. When applying to the force it was brilliant to see how much our force encourages people from all backgrounds to apply.
PC Shaf Habeeb
PC Habeeb who is a response officer speaks about what he loves most about his heritage. He says: “What I love most about my South Asian heritage is the rich culture it has. The bond, love, commitment and respect between the families. Sri Lanka is also nicknamed as Pearl of the Indian Ocean and teardrop of India. This is because of its natural beauty of the island I believe.”
“I grew up in Sri Lanka and I am from a Muslim background. The population there is about 9 per cent Muslim, so I grew up in a minority. Growing up I was always fascinated with my roots and the history. I remember my grandmother telling me that there were no Muslims in Sri Lanka before traders came from Arab lands in the 7th century A.D.”
Speaking about barriers in his career, he says: “Throughout my life I faced many challenges to progress with different organisations before I started with Northamptonshire Police. I have no doubt in my mind I will continue facing challenges throughout my career. Even though there are challenges for who I am, it has never stopped me from working hard and achieving the goals that I set in my life. This is something I have learnt it from my father.
“My father once told me to never stop working hard for what you believe is yours, no matter how hard the path may be. What he said to me will always stick with me forever in my mind, and this is what I intend to do to achieve my goals in life.”
PC Kritesh Patel
Kritesh Patel who is a response officer talks about his heritage and experiences growing up. He says: “My mum was born in India and my dad is a Bolton lad! I’ve had the best of both worlds. From a young age, my mum has raised my sister and I with a lot of traditional Hindu values and my dad has allowed us to grow and become our own independent people, via the Western world. I like the fact I have these traditions and my upbringing; it has made me the person I am today. I wear ‘rakhis’ on my wrist – a type of bracelet made of thread which symbolises the unique bond between brother and sister, which always gets people asking questions. And I love that, I love answering questions from my friends and colleagues who are intrigued by my upbringings. The most shocking being that I’ve never eaten beef!
“I love the fact that I am British Indian, I get to experience the best of both worlds. Growing up in Wellingborough, I have grown up with British friends and got to experience everything they did, at school and out and about. But when I would bring my friends home, they came into my Indian world – my mum would feed them Indian food and all my friends loved it!”
Talking about how his heritage brings value to his policing career, Kritesh says: “Bringing my South Asian heritage into the police has given me opportunities to support victims in a way that perhaps someone else couldn’t. I remember going to a victim who had recently come over from Bangladesh and she was so scared after escaping domestic violence, but she could not explain her situation to the officers there. I attended, to support my colleagues, and she saw me and came over and latched onto me. We spoke different languages, but she seemed to trust me, I guess she saw me as someone like her? I also attended another incident where an Indian mother was asking her children to translate for her. Thankfully my parents taught me Gujarati as a child, so my bilingual skills came into play. I explained to her that I understood her, she relaxed and explained the situation to me, and I could answer and explain her questions and concerns.”
Reflecting on how society has changed, generationally, he added “I am aware of the issues my dad had growing up in the 80s in this country and I remember my sister suffering horrible racial abuse at school and her being so upset and not understanding why. I have been quite lucky, I don’t think I have experienced many barriers in my life due to my heritage, on a personal level.
“One example I can give of recalling a barrier due to my heritage is life changing after 9/11, not just for me but anyone of Asian heritage. I did not get any abuse personally, but I remember being pulled into a room at school and having it explained that if I do, I need to raise it with a teacher. Then, when travelling on my own after finishing school, as a tall Asian male wearing a backpack (as that’s how most people travel!) I got a lot of concerning looks walking through Heathrow Airport. I did not say anything to anyone, I did not want to cause any issues, but I can’t explain that feeling, the fear others had of me, whilst I just wanted to go on holiday, the same as them!
“In my last job, I worked my way up the ranks and I had remarks made that I only got there, because I am Asian. I’d like to think it was because I was good at my job, being Asian had nothing to do with it. If I work up the ranks in the police, I don’t want people to believe I have had opportunities handed to me due to my heritage, rather I have earned them through hard work!”
Chief Inspector Gan Thayanithy
Chief Inspector Gan Thayanithy is one of the highest ranking South Asian officers at Northamptonshire Police. He said: “What I love most about my South Asian heritage is discovering new things about it every day. The more you look the more you will find. My father is Sri Lankan and I have been speaking to him recently to find out about his upbringing and experiences. I found out that the Tamil language is one of the oldest in the world and has a very rich history of poetry and stories. One of my favourite quotes is from a Tamil poem – “Victory is not dependent on the strength of arms but on the fairness of justice”.
Speaking of how cultures are merging, he says: “I also find the wisdom of Hindu culture amazing – simple things to improve your life that are being re-discovered and popularised in the UK, that happen every day in South Asia. Yoga, martial arts, meditation, connecting with nature, living and eating seasonally and using natural preventative medicines like turmeric are all part of my heritage and are so vital for physical and mental wellbeing.”
Talking about his dual heritage, he says: “I perceive my appearance as Black because that is how I am perceived by the majority of people I meet, and I am proud of my Caribbean heritage too, thanks Mum! But I perceive my soul to be Asian British. What that means to me is taking pride in the fact that I am British, that I grew up identifying with traditional British ideals of patience, tolerance, kindness and bravery. Mixed in with that is the calm, natural energy of being Hindu and understanding myself and my environment through self-reflection, thought and cultural awareness. In both, the importance of duty cannot be overstated. It’s why I became a police officer and what motivates me every day.”
When asked about barriers he may have experienced, Chief Inspector Thayanithy, said: “I am a positive person and while I recognise barriers do exist, I am happy that I have the strength to overcome them. Sometimes this can be counterintuitive – for example I have never chased promotion or success. I have just tried to do my very best in each moment for the right reason and success naturally came with it. I taught myself to stay calm, depersonalise difficult situations and use positive thought and action to navigate my way through tough times. I have also learned to be happier with who I am, and accept myself, faults and all! These things have taken me a lifetime to learn and I genuinely believe it is because I have spent time learning about my culture, heritage and history.”
Vetting Officer Parminder Bhooi
Parminder Bhooi, who works as a vetting officer, speaks of her heritage and what it means to her. She said: “What I love most about being Indian Sikh is the fact that I can have the opportunity to share what my background is and where I come from and the things that are important to me and our communities.
“I love the fact that since the migration of settlers from North India, Punjab, also called the land of Five Rivers, has become known for its brave and hospitable people, and their exuberant festivals and celebrations have all been adopted in today’s Great Britain.
“I love everything that is over the top, colourful dresses, foot tapping music, and an undying love for food and drinks!
“Working as a vetting officer for Northamptonshire Police and coming from an ethnic background has been a great opportunity for me to help the organisation. We are a force working hard to recruit people with all skills, experiences and understanding of cultural issues.
“I’m proud to say that we work for a Force who encourage individuals from any background to consider applying and strive to employ a workforce that reflects the diverse communities we serve.”
Talking about her Asian British background, Parminder says: “As a born-and-bred Londoner, I grew up in a city that was multi-cultural. I went to school with other kids from a very wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. This allowed me to absorb a lot of other people’s cultures, which was wonderful. I embraced that diversity while feeling it was completely natural. I was able to appreciate the wide variety of cultures and the festivals that people celebrate.
“My perception as a British Asian is that I’m really proud of my varied identities and I can say this with so much appreciation.
“People often point out the differences between cultures and, for sure, that diversity and richness around the world is something to celebrate. But I also think, having grown up in a very multicultural environment, there are increased overlapping of influences.”
Reflecting on the sacrifices made by her parents, she says: “My parents originally come from North India, my mother from Amritsar in Punjab and my father was from Nairobi, Kenya. My father settled in England in the 1960s and became a qualified BT engineer, while my mum worked for a company inspecting parts for British Aerospace. I’m the second oldest of three children and the opportunities I have had with my career are entirely down to the sacrifices my parents made in order to ensure each of us had a good education.”
Northamptonshire Police has a strong commitment to equality and diversity, striving to employ a workforce that reflects the diverse communities we serve. We are currently recruiting for police officers to find out more about the different routes of entry available visit www.northants.police.uk/careers
From left to right: PCDA officer Noor Khan, PC Shaf Habeeb, PC Kritesh Patel, Chief Inspector Gan Thayanithy and Vetting Officer Parminder Bhooi