Family of Croydon's first Asian councillor Amrit Devesar pay tribute to 'inspirational man'
The family of Croydon's first Asian councillor have remembered an "inspirational pioneer of multi-racial politics" after his death.
Amrit Devesar became councillor for Bensham Manor Ward in 1971, serving residents until 1974. His election was the first time the Labour party had won the seat in Thornton Heath.
The former councillor died on Sunday aged 86, after suffering a heart attack at his Kenley home.
Mr Devesar was born in the Amritsar district of the Punjab in India, where he worked for Indian Independence in the student movement.
He first came to Britain in 1959, having been posted to the Indian High Commission.
He moved to Thornton Heath in 1963, working with a firm of solicitors and joined the Labour party before standing for election eight years later.
In an interview held in archives at the Museum of Croydon, Mr Devesar said he faced a lot of prejudice as he campaigned to be elected.
He said: "While we were canvassing I knocked at a house and a lady came and I gave my usual patter. And she said, 'Well, Mr Devesar, you speak very good English.
"The two Conservative canvassers have been going around telling that the Labour party have picked up an Asian candidate who can't even speak English."
"Here you must give credit to the fairness of the British people, they don’t like to be misrepresented. So I think there might have been a backlash and in the end I did win."
The father-of-two and grandfather-of-seven, was a key member of council at a time of great change in Croydon, which included the development of the Whitgift Centre.
Affectionately known as Papaji, his nephew Sumeet Dwesar said: "Papaji will be deeply missed by his many friends, family and colleagues.
"A small piece of Croydon history has passed on."