British Punjabis

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British Punjabis
Total population
700,000 (2006)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Mainly England · Smaller communities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Punjabi · British English · Urdu and Hindi
Islam · Sikhism · Hinduism · Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Punjabi diaspora · British Pakistanis · British Indians · British Mirpuris

British Punjabis are British citizens or residents who are of Punjabi origin.[α] They originate from the Punjab region of Pakistan and India. Punjabis are a major sub-group of the British Pakistani and British Indian communities, representing the largest ethnicity among British Asians.[2]


The UK is home to the largest Punjabi diaspora.[2] Immigration from the Punjab region to the UK began during the colonial era, when Punjab was a province of British India. The earliest Punjabi migrants included domestic labourers, students, officials, or recruits in the British Army.[2] A notable early figure is the Maharaja Duleep Singh who was exiled to Britain in 1853.[2] Some Punjabis arrived in the UK during the 1940s and 1950s, escaping the turbulent period during the partition of India.[3]

The first significant migration of Punjabis occurred in the 1940s and 1950s. Labour shortages in the UK following the Second World War led the British authorities to encourage recruitment from across the Commonwealth.[4] The vast majority of these migrants were men, who after a period of acclimatisation began to settle permanently and invite their friends, wives and children to join them.[5]

In the 1970s, there was widespread migration of Punjabis from East Africa, many of whom had retained their British passports following the independence of Kenya and Uganda. East African Punjabis are known as twice migrants, and came to the UK amidst growing discrimination at home, symbolised by the Expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972.[6] Unlike earlier Punjabi migration to the UK, East African Punjabis migrated as families. Many were successful businessmen or professionals with savings and able to adjust quickly to life in Britain.[7]


In the 2011 UK Census, 273,000 people identified Punjabi as their first language. Of these, 271,000 were in England, 23,000 in Scotland, 1,600 in Wales and a smaller number in Northern Ireland.[8][9] Thus, Punjabi is the third most commonly spoken language in the UK.[10] The Southall area of Greater London is home to a significant Punjabi population.[2] The total population of Punjabis in the UK is estimated to exceed 700,000.[1]

Immigrants from the Pakistani province of Punjab are mainly Punjabi Muslims, with smaller numbers of Christians.[11] The majority originate from the northern and central parts of Punjab, such as: Jhelum, Jhang, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Attock, Chakwal, Chiniot, Sargodha, Toba Tek Singh and Lahore.[12][13] Punjabis are estimated to comprise one-third of the British Pakistani population, making up the second largest sub-group after Mirpuri Kashmiris.[14] The tribes to which British Pakistani Punjabis belong include Jats, Gujjars, Awans, Arains, Rajputs and several others.[15]

The population of Indian Punjabis in the UK has been estimated at 466,563 in 2011, based on an earlier estimate that they constitute 45% of the British Indian community. Of these, majority are Sikhs while the rest are mainly Punjabi Hindus.[2][12] The majority of British Sikhs belong to the Jat clan.[2] The areas where they predominately originate from are Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Kapurthala, Bathinda, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Moga. The UK has the second largest Sikh diaspora outside India, after Canada.[2]


Punjabi culture strongly defines the identity of British Punjabis. The bhangra form of music was popularised by Punjabi immigrants in the UK during the 1970s.[16] England has long been associated with the Asian Underground scene which gave rise to Punjabi pop music, especially among the younger generations.[17] Punjabi cuisine is also highly popular in the country.[18] Chicken tikka masala has been called a "national dish" of Britain.[19]

Punjabis are known for their entrepreneurial activities.[20] Research by Teesside University shows that the British Punjabi community is one of the most highly educated and successful in the UK.[21] Notable businesspeople include Sir Anwar Pervez and Surinder Arora who rank amongst the wealthiest Britons.[22][23] Other Punjabis have achieved notability in the theatres of British politics, sports and entertainment.[24]

Notable British Punjabis[edit]

Business, science and academia[edit]

Successful businessmen and professionals include Surinder Arora, Gulu Lalvani, Jasminder Singh, Ranjit Singh Boparan, James Caan, Mo Chaudry, Zameer Choudrey, Humayon Dar, Avtar Lit, Aneel Mussarat, Sir Anwar Pervez and Tom Singh. In science and academia, Asif Chaudry, Hasnat Khan, Mohammad Naseem, Simon Singh, Kamel Hothi.


Punjabis have achieved considerable prominence across the entertainment industries. In literature and arts, Tariq Ali, Moniza Alvi, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Chila Kumari Burman, Imtiaz Dharker, Mohsin Hamid, Emran Mian, Raman Mundair, Daljit Nagra, Tahir Rashid, Ziauddin Sardar, Qaisra Shahraz, and Aatish Taseer. In journalism and media, Martin Bashir, Daljit Dhaliwal, Mo Dutta, Hassan Ghani, Sunny Hundal, Mishal Husain, Riz Lateef, Razia Iqbal, Rizwan Khan, Sarfraz Manzoor, Sangita Myska, Anita Rani, Adil Ray and Osama Saeed. In the fashion world, models Neelam Gill and Atta Yaqub, and designer Omar Mansoor. Comedians include Humza Arshad, Guzzy Bear, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Danny Bhoy, Kulvinder Ghir, Abdullah Afzal, Jay Islaam, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Sanjeev Kohli and Meera Syal. They are numerous famous Sikh artists involved in singing various genres of Punjabi songs. Prominent artists include, Kuldeep Manak, Gurdas Maan, Ranjit Bawa, Geeta Zaildar, Diljit Dosanjh, Gippy Grewal, Amrinder Gill, Sharry Mann, Garry Sandhu, and Satinder Sartaaj.

In the film and television industry, the following Punjabis have found success; Adeel Akhtar, Shabana Bakhsh, Samir Bhamra, Jas Binag, Gurinder Chadha, Ameet Chana, Saeed Jaffrey, Nitin Kundra, Art Malik, Jimi Mistry, Zia Mohyeddin, Parminder Nagra, Parvez Qadir, Tahirah Sharif and Mandy Takhar. In the music industry, names include Apache Indian, Juggy D, Dr Zeus, Diamond Duggal, Bobby Friction, Aman Hayer, Jas Mann, Ms Scandalous, Manj Musik, Aki Nawaz, Panjabi MC, Rishi Rich, Bally Sagoo, Indy Sagu, Manni Sandhu, Nitin Sawhney, Jay Sean, Sukshinder Shinda, Malkit Singh, Talvin Singh, Tijinder Singh and Tigerstyle.

Law and Politics[edit]

Prominent politicians include Bashir Ahmad, Parmjit Dhanda, Tarique Ghaffur, Sajid Javid, Nazir Afzal, Piara Khabra, Afzal Khan, Bashir Khanbhai, Bashir Maan, Hanzala Malik, Nosheena Mobarik, Seema Malhotra, Zahida Manzoor, Yasmin Qureshi, Diljit Rana, Kulveer Ranger, Anas Sarwar, Mohammad Sarwar, Virendra Sharma, Shas Sheehan, Marsha Singh, Ranbir Singh Suri, Paul Uppal, Humza Yousaf and Jasvir Singh


British Punjabis have also excelled in sport. Notable cricketers include Kamran Afzaal, Usman Afzaal, Mohammad Akhtar, Kabir Ali, Kadeer Ali, Zafar Ansari, Ravi Bopara, Asim Butt, Imran Jamshed, Shaftab Khalid, Imran Majid, Saqlain Mushtaq, Monty Panesar and Ajmal Shahzad. Elsewhere includes footballers Michael Chopra and Zesh Rehman, boxer Amir Khan and Kash Gill who achieved fame as the kickboxing world champion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Punjabi: برطانوی پنجابی (Shahmukhi); ਬ੍ਰਿਟਿਸ਼ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ (Gurmukhī)


  1. ^ a b McDonnell, John (5 December 2006). "Punjabi Community". House of Commons. Retrieved 3 August 2016. We now estimate the Punjabi community at about 700,000, with Punjabi established as the second language certainly in London and possibly within the United Kingdom. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Chanda, Rupa; Ghosh, Sriparna (2013). "The Punjabi Diaspora in the UK: An Overview of Characteristics and Contributions to India" (PDF). CARIM INDIA – Developing a knowledge base for policymaking on India-EU migration. Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  3. ^ Thaker, Aruna; Barton, Arlene (2012). Multicultural Handbook of Food, Nutrition and Dietetics. John Wiley & Sons. p. 30. ISBN 9781405173582. 
  4. ^ Pirkko Pitkänen, Ahmet Içduygu, Deniz Sert (2012), Migration and Transformation:: Multi-Level Analysis of Migrant Transnationalism, Springer Science & Business Media, page 22
  5. ^ Thandi, S.S. (2015) ‘Punjabi Migration, Settlement and Experience in the UK’, in Rajan, S.I., Varghese, V.J., and Kumar Nanda, A. (eds.) Migration, Mobility and Multiple Affiliations: Punjabis in a Transnational World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 105–130.
  6. ^ Bizeck J.Phiri. "Asians: East Africa". Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Siobhan Laird (2008), Anti-Oppressive Social Work: A Guide for Developing Cultural Competence, SAGE, page 52
  8. ^ Rogers, Simon (31 January 2013). "Census 2011: the language data visualised". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2016. 
  9. ^ "Scotland's Census 2011 - National Records of Scotland: Language used at home other than English (detailed) - All people aged 3 and over" (PDF). Scotland Census. Retrieved 5 August 2016. 
  10. ^ "2011 Census: Quick Statistics". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "2011 census data – religion". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 August 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Heath, Anthony F.; Fisher, Stephen D.; Rosenblatt, Gemma; Sanders, David; Sobolewska, Maria (2013). The Political Integration of Ethnic Minorities in Britain. OUP Oxford. p. 23. ISBN 9780199656639. 
  13. ^ Gilliat-Ray, Sophie (2010). Muslims in Britain. Cambridge University Press. p. 45. ISBN 9780521536882. 
  14. ^ Roger Ballard; Marcus Banks (1994). Desh Pardesh: the South Asian presence in Britain. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. pp. 18, 20, 21. 
  15. ^ Monika Böck; Aparna Rao (2000). Culture, Creation, and Procreation: Concepts of Kinship in South Asian Practice. Berghahn Books. pp. 81–157. ISBN 1-57181-912-6. ... Kalesh kinship is indeed orchestrated through a rigorous system of patrilineal descent defined by lineage endogamy 
  16. ^ Fisher, Michael Herbert (2007). A South-Asian History of Britain: Four Centuries of Peoples from the Indian Sub-continent. Greenwood World Publishing. ISBN 9781846450082. 
  17. ^ "History of Desi Music". BBC Asian Network. Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  18. ^ Panjabi, Camellia (1995). The Great Curries of India. Simon and Schuster. p. 10. ISBN 9780684803838. 
  19. ^ "Robin Cook's chicken tikka masala speech: Extracts from a speech by the foreign secretary to the Social Market Foundation in London". Guardian. 19 April 2001. 
  20. ^ Jones, Marian; Dimitratos, Pavlos (2014). Emerging Paradigms in International Entrepreneurship. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 90. ISBN 9781845420635. 
  21. ^ Steve Taylor. "Punjabi Communities in the North East". Teesside University. Retrieved 2 November 2010. 
  22. ^ Midgley, Dominic (21 July 2014). "Anwar Pervez: The Billionaire cash and carry King". Express. Retrieved 13 July 2015. 
  23. ^ Teather, David (18 August 2007). "The Mr Nice Guy of the hotels world". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  24. ^ Hazelwood, Rajbir Purewal (15 May 2013). "A Diasporic Politics of Belonging: Punjabis in Postwar Britain". Washington University. Retrieved 3 August 2016.