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UK Riots: Asian Immigrants Emerge Heroes

PTI 12 Aug 2011, 18:19:14 IST

London, Aug 12: People with roots in the Indian sub-continent were some of the worst affected when riots rocked London and other cities in England, but their resilience and determination to thwart trouble-makers was soon hailed as examples of the “best of Britain.” 

As normalcy returns, the impact of the days and nights of mayhem is becoming clear, with official estimates of loss running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

Significantly, so far none of the rioters arrested, named and shamed is from Britain's Asian community. Those hit the hardest include scores of Gujarati businessmen, a Pakistan-origin family and a Sri Lankan shopkeeper who has been reduced to penury but insists he will soon be up on his feet with help from neighbours and others from the wider community.

There have been many inspiring examples of ordinary people - from all communities - in London and elsewhere, contributing to cleaning up, countering rioters, helping to deal with the situation and insisting on peace.

Tariq Jahan, the Pakistan-origin father of 21-year-old Haroon, who was among three Asian youngsters mowed down by a speeding car in Birmingham, has been widely hailed as a hero and as the “true face of Britain” for his efforts to calm passions after the incident.

Wrote Daniel Johnson in the Daily Telegraph: “The Jahan family has set an example, not only for their fellow Muslims, but for Britons of all religions and none.”

The Gujarati community in London estimates that at least 10 per cent of the business establishments attacked belonged to members of the community. The establishments affected include corner shops, jewellers and an electronics showroom.

Sri Lankan-origin shopkeeper Shiva Kandiah's shop was ransacked in Hackney, losing over 10,000 pounds worth of goods.

He did not have contents' insurance, but is touched by the assistance extended by people in the borough who have volunteered to help him get back on his feet again. The example set by hundreds of people in Southall who rallied together to protect the Guru Singh Sabha gurdwara was hailed by Prime Minister David Cameron in the House of Commons yesterday.

Also lauded was the contribution of Birmingham-based Sangat TV, whose presenter Upinder Randhawa has become the most recognised face in the west Midlands and beyond. People have been gathering outside the channel's office to thank him and the channel for helping deal with the riots and spread the message of peace amidst passions over the recent events.

Another immigrant who aroused the sympathy of millions is Ashraf Rossli, the Malaysian student whose YouTube footage became a symbol of the riots.

Robbed of his bike by hooded youths with knives, Rossli was kicked in the face and left bleeding with a broken jaw that required surgery.

The incident recorded by his friend shows him being helped to his feet by rioters, who then proceed to steal from his backpack.

He insisted he still loved Britain and would not return home before completing his accountancy course, even though his mother asked him to return. PTI