By Shillpi A Singh
Ankit Love, 33, of the One Love Party, is one of the 12 candidates in the fray for London’s mayoral election slated for May 5, 2016. A musician and film-maker by profession, Love has roots in Jammu and Kashmir and claims to be the Emperor of Jammu and Kashmir in exile.
Love comes from a political family; his parents Jayamala Devi and Bhim Singh had founded the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party in 1982, and he was born a year later. They are senior advocates in the Supreme Court of India. “I hail from a political family. I grew up around political and legal debates. My mother trained me to be a political leader in a wartime situation as it was clear I would have to take over the party one day. With my father, I never discussed girlfriends or football. It was always about Hiroshima, Iraq war or Palestine. Even when we would watch a movie together, it would be something like Ben Hur,” he said.
“My first school was Bishop Cotton, Shimla, but owing to security reasons, I was moved to the UK.”
He arrived in Britain as a six-year-old in 1989 and studied art and music in Surrey and California. “I went to the American Community International School in Cobham, Surrey, from 1989-2002. It is one of the top international schools in the world. Next, I was accepted at the California Institute of the Arts. After that, I went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, one of the most prestigious drama schools in the world, and earned a certificate in Shakespearean Acting.”
He was the first person to be the elected President of the Student Council in 11th grade in 2000 at ACS Cobham and re-elected in 12th grade with over 95% majority. “Because of my political training at home, I won easily. School time politics seemed easy as I was trained to deal with terrorist threats.” Back home, Love’s father had first asked him to contest elections in J&K in 2008, but he turned down the offer as he wanted to focus on his art. “My father once again asked me to take over the reins of the party, but I refused as I felt my cousins had been involved for longer, and they were more suited for this responsibility.”
“I grew up always surrounded by armed guards whenever I would visit India because of my father’s Z security cover. I would also play with the bullets and guns of the soldiers guarding us.” Love had last visited his home state, Jammu and Kashmir, in 2010 and found it funny to be moving around with 22 armed guards. “We would drive through the Valley in bullet-proof cars with dozens of armed guards. It always seemed like I was living two lives, one in the UK and another one in Jammu and Kashmir. So it’s always been politics for me, I had no choice.”
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Other than his political ambitions, he has worked in films, music, theatre and magazines. He is the founder of Ankit Love Productions, and his short film Whale and documentary film Runners premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. Beethoven Burst, a single on his first album Forever (2010) was a hit on MTV.
He identifies his paternal ancestry with the Dogras and maternal with priestly Saraswat dynasty of Afghanistan. “After living in the United Kingdom for 20 years, I had become a UK subject in 2009. But this meant that I was no longer an Indian citizen.”
He adds, “And then while researching the law and Dogra history, it hit me that I was the last Dogra.” In March 2015, informs his blog, Ankit Love was administered the oath by God and received coronation in a spiritual ceremony at the subterranean Akasha Yoga & Meditation Centre at the Cafe Royal Hotel, London. “He officially adopted the titles as His Highness the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir to be the neutral defender of all faiths and became the world’s youngest incumbent head of state.”
It’s All in The Name
Love said he had always thought of improving people’s life. And growing up in the tech and internet revolution, it seemed natural for him to combine his political experience and education in economics with ideas of tech to help people. “My mother named me Love with the hope that I would bring peace to Jammu and Kashmir. Born with techno-progressive values, I called my party One Love. Of course, Bob Marley is another reason.”
Facts of the Matter
Almost six million voters from all over the world, and all European Union citizens can vote in the high-profile Mayoral election. So can Commonwealth citizens with residency and Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis living here. “I live in Bethnal Green where the Bangladeshi refugee community that came here in 1971 live. It’s an international election, with more than one million people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi origins who will be able to vote.” Last time, the turnout was only 38%; the winner had one million votes only. He is optimistic. “If all this community comes out to support my idea to reunite India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, I might win! And then it will probably happen because I am already in the news in India and Pakistan. If enough people knew about me, I could have the biggest landslide in the history of this election.” He added, “But our party is the poorest; it’s hard to get our message to six million people in just a few days. So I have made a video that has had more than 300,000 views in just a few days. If this goes super viral in the next few days, well then, I can win still.
His main issue is air pollution, which causes thousands of deaths every year. As mayor, he would ban all vehicles that run on fossil fuels and offer a structured plan for the benefit of Londoners.
For India, Love – a British citizen now – has plans for peace in Jammu and Kashmir and reunification of India and Pakistan.
Love insists that he is a serious aspirant with definite plans for the metropolis and wants Londoner to cast their votes in his favour.
Of the 12 candidates in the election, the two most important ones are Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) and Sadiq Khan (Labour), but they face some challenge from the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.
Brimming with enthusiasm, Love realises the challenge he faces. He said that even if he were to get 1 or 2% of votes, that would be a great beginning for his political party that was registered last October.
“I find that mainstream British and Asian news organisations don’t think I am a serious candidate. Of course, I am a serious candidate. They don’t understand what I represent and promise to the people of London,” Love said. “Even if I am unsuccessful, people will know me after the elections. We have plans to spread to other European countries and want Britain to stay in the EU,” he said.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, isn’t it? But His Highness, as he prefers to be addressed, signed off on a winning note. “But of course, I won’t quit till the very end.”
Love him, hate him, but Londoners certainly can’t ignore him.
The author can be contacted at [email protected]