UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Sunday backed a campaign for influential ethnic minority figures to be featured on a set of UK coins to celebrate Britain’s diversity.
Mahatma Gandhi is in the running as an influential Commonwealth figure, as the UK’s Royal Mint considers the plans as part of commemorating the 150th birth anniversary year of the Indian independence movement leader.
Others in the race also include Noor Inayat Khan, who was the first Indian-origin World War II spy for Britain, and Khudadad Khan, the first soldier of the British Indian Army to become the recipient of the prestigious Victoria Cross, the highest military award for gallantry in the face of the enemy given to British and Commonwealth forces.
“Yesterday [Saturday] I wrote to the Royal Mint urging them to consider how to celebrate the achievements of BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] individuals on UK coinage,” said Sunak in a statement issued on social media on Sunday.
The move follows a letter to the Indian-origin finance minister from the “We Too Built Britain” campaign calling for a set of coins entitled “Service to the Nation”.
In response to the campaign, led by Indian-origin Conservative Party candidate Zehra Zaidi, Sunak issued a letter to the chair of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC), Lord William Waldegrave, to task the Sub-Committee on Themes to consider recognising BAME contributions on the nation’s coinage.
“Black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities have made a profound contribution to the shared history of the United Kingdom,” reads Sunak’s letter to Lord Waldegrave.
“For generations, ethnic minority groups have fought and died for this country we have built together; taught our children, nursed the sick, cared for the elderly; and through their enterprising spirit have started some of our most exciting and dynamic businesses, creating jobs and driving growth,” it reads.
“I know you are already seeking to fully consider diversity in future coin design and I very much welcome these efforts. I hope this campaign reminds us of the importance and urgency of doing so,” it adds.
Zaidi’s We Too Built Britain campaign is keen for the former Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent Noor Inayat Khan, a descendant of the Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan, or Mary Seacole, a British Jamaican Crimean War heroine, to be recognised on coinage as reflective of ethnic minority female contributions of British history.
“We propose a specific next theme of service to the nation by black, Asian, and other ethnic minority people, both in military conflict and on the home front,” Zaidi’s letter to Sunak read.
“This theme will unite people, especially now as the nation has come together through the pandemic, and is collectively recognising the heroic work by ethnic minority staff in our health and care services.
“It is surely essential that this country does not lose another opportunity to demonstrate that the contributions of black, Asian, and other ethnic minority groups are truly valued. Symbols matter and we urge you to support our campaign,” it added.
Gandhi has been in the running for a commemorative coin in Britain since former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Pakistani-origin Sajid Javid, had asked the Royal Mint to consider such a commemorative coin last year to coincide with the 150th birth anniversary year celebrations for the Father of the Indian Nation “so the world never forgets what Gandhi taught the world”.
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