Indians forcibly expelled from Uganda

Yet 20 years later, many of their descendants returned

Shefali O'Hara

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Photo by Hassan Omar Wamwayi on Unsplash

In 1991, I watched a movie about Indian immigrants living in Mississippi, aptly named Mississippi Masala. As a person of Indian heritage living in South Carolina at the time, I related to the movie. I also developed a crush on Denzel Washington, who is frankly beautiful in the film.

The movie also taught me about the expulsion of the Asian community from Uganda by its dictator, Idi Amin.

The parents in the film, Jay and Kinnu, were third-generation Ugandan Indians who hated having to leave beautiful Kampala, which they considered their home. Their daughter, Mina, was a child at the time. While her father dreams of returning to Africa, she becomes fully assimilated into American culture. While her father distrusts black people due to what happened under Amin, Mina falls in love with the delectable Demetrius.

I won’t reveal any spoilers, except to say that if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s worth a watch.

One thing the movie did for me is to raise my awareness of what happened in Uganda, something I’d never known about before. For me, this elevated a poignant love story into something more meaningful. It fed my curiosity as well as highlighting some of the hypocrisies in the Indian community.

I did some research and also talked to friends of mine — both Indians who had immigrated to the U.S. from Africa and also a couple of African friends.

The gist of the story is that Uganda was once a European colony, which was unfortunately the case for much of Africa during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In Uganda, the British imported many workers from India in the 1890s. While some became farmers, others started up businesses.

The problem from the point of view of Africans was that the Indians became too successful. The other problem was that they discriminated against blacks.

I’ve witnessed the hypocrisy of this myself. I’ve heard immigrants from many countries, not just India, complain about racism, but then turn around and discriminate against others. This is unacceptable.

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Shefali O'Hara

Cancer survivor, writer, engineer. BSEE from MIT, MSEE, and MA in history. Love nature, animals, books, art, and interesting discussions.