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London riots: Asians live in fear

Last updated on: August 10, 2011 02:43 IST

London riots: Asians live in fear

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Kokila Patel in London

With rioters looting shops and then burning it down, Indians who own stores in London are a worried lot, reports Kokila Patel.

Asians in London and elsewhere in Britain are living in fear since the last 48 hours because rioters are targeting stores, looting it and then burning it down.

Niranjana Yogesh Patel, who owns a three-storied 'party shop' in Clapham Junction was one of the victims of the riots. Her shop was burnt down by rioters -- all wearing hoods.

Another jewellery shop named 'Bhagwanji Ram' owned by Manubhai was also looted. The owners are unsure if they would be compensated for the losses.

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Image: Clapham residents clean up in St John's road after a night of rioting and looting in London
Photographs: Olivia Harris/Reuters
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Shopkeepers get little comfort from PM Cameron's statement

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The Guardian has reported that the loss to property bill could go up to 100m as a result of the riots in London. Under the act the police in United Kingdom may have to pick up insurance costs for damage done to property across the country. The police have already arrested 450 people.

Gujarati and Punjabi shopkeepers are little comforted by Prime Minister Cameron's statement that he was determined that justice will be done and those involved will "feel the full force of the law".

If the ill-equipped London police is unable to handle the situation, there are reports that the army will be called in to restore peace. However, Prime Minister David Cameron has said that 16,000 policemen will patrol the streets of London on Tuesday night.  

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Image: A policeman and his dog walk towards a burning car in central Birmingham, central England
Photographs: Darren Staples/Reuters
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'Britishers of Indian origin have more reason to worry'

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Any person wearing a hood is enough to petrify shopkeepers. "We are worried. I have been living in London since 1977 but I have not seen such riots. It's stunning. While I am talking to you from Ealing, London, I see Selfridges in Manchester in flames on the TV screen, said Patel.

"We have closed our shops for precautionary reasons. In most areas police came to tell our community people to pull down the shutters. It's scary," she added.

The Britishers of Indian origin have more reason to worry because large number of them own shops. "Many of us believe that police is ill-equipped to handle rowdy crowds," Patel said.

Some believe that the riots started after tensions between black people and the police in Tottenham area, and it's not about politics or religion. People are worried because the government is already reeling under huge debt and now shops and factories are shut down after 2 pm fearing rioters.

The riots were triggered when 29-year-old Mark Duggan, who was carrying a handgun, was gunned down by police. There is an on-going debate on whether Duggan's handgun was capable of firing or not. The forensic tests have not yet arrived, which can establish whether Duggan fired his weapon at all during the attempted arrest on Thursday evening.

His family members have condemned the riots. Some reports suggested that Duggan's family was not heard by the police soon after the death. It's believed that, "the lack of contact from the police in delivering news of his death to Duggan's parents" had triggered the people's ire against police.

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Image: A publican boards up his pub in central London
Photographs: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
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'Riots not about politics, it's about economics'

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C B Patel, publisher and editor of Gujarat Samachar in UK believes that the genesis of riots is well-explained in the study by the Centre for Social Justice think-tank, set up by Iain Duncan Smith.

Patel says, "The report talks about social fabric of Britain. A section of youth is unemployed, unemployable, uneducated and they are unskilled. They have no stake in society. The reading of the report clearly suggested that UK is sitting on a volcano. In addition the new government talked about cutting deficit drastically.

"They started putting cuts in social sector. There was a buffer between the haves and have-nots. But, when cuts came in the social sector the pressure built up. That resulted in revolt. When the space for poor people shrunk in the job market these guys have gone on a rampage. They have been directly affected by cuts."

Patel also says these riots are not about politics, It's about economics.


Image: A Clapham resident cleans up in St John's road after a night of rioting and looting in London
Photographs: Olivia Harris/Reuters
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