Washington, First Stop: Sikhism, Racism and Steel
To avoid a financial burden on his family, Ajit opted for studies at Howard University supplementing a scholarship with work. The Civil Rights Movement was at its height; “both Howard and living in Washington, DC were important formative experiences: direct contact with the black situation made me aware of internal colonialism”. Significantly, his MA thesis focussed on the Indian steel industry, and “I reached the conclusion that to develop properly in the nineteenth century the Indian steel industry would have required protection, a policy which colonial administrations refused”. Ajit’s topic symbolically resonated with the ethos of the era, as steel epitomised the Indian drive for planned industrialisation, and generated resentment against the denial of national choice due to imperial subjugation. This early work initiated Ajit into his future research on industrial economics. Alongside, he encountered Shamsher Singh, another long-term friend, who connected Ajit with the Sikh community in Washington.
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