Indians united in this Little India

When it comes to the business of protecting business, there’s no beating Indians. Dipankar De Sarkar reports.

world Updated: Aug 11, 2011 00:08 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times

When it comes to the business of protecting business, there’s no beating Indians.

As cities across England faced the ferocious assault of rioters on Tuesday night, hundreds of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus in the London suburb of Southall — known as Little India — banded together to protect stores and places of worship.

The action by ordinary members of the community — many of whom were armed with kirpans and hockey sticks — came after rioters targeted shops in suburban areas with large Indian-origin populations.

On Monday night, rioters smashed a jewellers shop window in Southall and looted an electrical goods store, owned by a Punjabi family, in nearby West Ealing — a leafy and prosperous neighbourhood that has been hit by widespread arson and looting.

Rumours swirled of an imminent attack on Southall — home to a thriving Indian-origin business community. “We picked up advance intelligence that the hooligans were planning to attack Southall jewellery shops,” said Ranjit Dheer, deputy leader of Ealing Council, which includes Southall.

After a meeting of police, councillors, local MP Virendra Sharma and others were advised to shut down early at 4 pm.

“But people were not happy about closing shops so early,” said Dheer, who is the councillor responsible for policing. “They said, ‘If police can’t protect us we will protect ourselves’.”

With the police force clearly overstretched in trying to check rioting in hotspots in and around London, religious leaders in Southall were then roped in to help guard the neighbourhood and its business premises. Around 300 men kept a night-long vigil at the Sri Guru Singh Sabha gurdwara, Southall’s largest.

Hundreds more stood guard at the largest mosque in the area, said Dheer.

First Published: Aug 11, 2011 00:07 IST