What started off as a peaceful protest in Tottenham, North London, on August 7 over the death of a 29 year old Afro-Caribbean youth Mark Duggan soon descended, on Monday, (when a man was stopped and searched by police in Hackney, North London) into wave of what London police described as acts of ‘copycat criminality’ that swept across the capital from the inner-city racial hotspots in the north-east and the south-east to the more prosperous western parts such as Ealing and Nottinghill (the place where British Prime Minister David Cameron lived before he assumed power). The mob fury and ‘mindless violence’ did not confine to London, it spread beyond and engulfed other main cities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol.
The images that beamed from television screen and which dominated the front page of newspapers were shocking. Vehicles were being burned, shops attacked, stores looted, buildings set on fire, youths smashed shops, threw petrol bombs and other missiles, planks of wood and wheelie bins at riot place. People leaping out from the building as they were burned and terror-stricken victims of violence cowering from rampaging mobs. A mayhem and destruction all round. What is more, rioters were using a special Blackberry messaging service to take control of the streets in London. Many of those indulging in violence were barely in their teens.
As if derriving pleasure in violence a hundred-strong mob cheered as a shop in the centre of Peckham was torched and one masked youth shouted: ‘The West End (central London) is going down next’. One onlooker said when a baker’s store was alight: ‘The mob was just standing there cheering and laughing. Others were just watching on from their homes open mouthed in horror’. The mob did not spare even a historic 144-year old store, Reeves Corner in Crydon. It was reduced to rubble.
A sort of urban uprising, one can say, the streets and roads of London and other cities erupted with. And as police labelled it was ‘worst disorder in memory’. Many a myth the stunning events destroyed. The violence is not exclusive domain of third world countries, in particular of Muslims as is being propagated by the “civilized” west. Violence is the expression of anger and, in some cases, of disappointment or both. Howsoever the experts of human psychee call it ‘fun-making’ on part of youth or wizards in politics label it as ‘recreational hooliganism’, – perhaps to undermine the level of intensity of the violence that world witnessed – the stark reality is that through the mouth of violence this streak of injustice found its way through. And did a veto on whatever the state takes a pride on. The London mayhem was not a flare-up having its RDX (explosive material) in racial, religious, ethnic, linguistic or regional prejudice and bigotism. It was a simple case of social injustice economic deprivation and loss of hope which made the youth to resort to violent discourse. Their cheering to stores being burnt and loot and arson of properties did indicate they were not satisfied the way the state was functioning. The gulf between have and have-not’s was widening and despite the various ‘welfare measures’ of the satate they find themselves sewed in the juice of ever-increasing gulf. That violence did not remain confine to racial hotspots and erupteed in comparatively prosperous parts as well, shows that it is the common man in London, irrespective of what color, creed, race, language and culture he belongs to, who sees his future darker in the days ahead. It is the haves who are, he believes, constricting the space for him.
The violence has brought to the fore the hygiene of moral values, economic and social justice, peaceful behaviour, tolerance and law-abiding attributes of white-complexioned people, Europe would strut their heads with. The black hole was big enough to deny them a moral supremacy.
Then again, despite many glittering appearances the West has put on, the concept of free-economy and corporate neo-imperialism in revealing its dreadful hood. Not only it pushes common man to impoverishment, finally driving them to commit suicides (as world has witnessed in many thousands of farmers in India commiting suicides), in its own yard this “fairy godess” is making people in London do the fascinating acrobatics as we have seen a week before.
While looking at the gory scenes of violence on streets of Britain, on the hindsight the tale of death and destruction was getting unfolded before the eyes when Delhi rulers and its political stooges in Kashmir used lethal fire power to quell the mass uprisings of 2008, 2009 and 2010. Compared to level of violence, vandalism and arson and loot in London, the uprising in Kashmir was far more peaceful and non-violent. Except stones pelted on forces personnel and police, that too when people were prevented from demonestrating peacefully and as a reaction to the killing of some innocent youth, the uprising has all but non-violent mode. But the use of fire-power to crush people in Kashmir – demanding right to self determination, India promised while accepting the security council resolutions – has no parallel. 114 people, mainly of youth, were gunned down, thousands crippled for life. Nearly two dozen people were visually impaired, some turned completely blind as they were directly aimed at their eyes. In London, however, though orgy of violence was all sweeping with its ferrocity visible everywhere – to the extent that three innocent people were mowned down by the mob when they resisted them – British police didn’t fire a single shot on the people. They did not explode the tear-gas shell on public gatherings. They didn’t aimed at delicate parts. One is shuddered on what hell would have unleashed here has London been replicated here.
British police took stringent action and controlled the violence in only three days. It did arrest people and is in hot pursuit of law-breakers, prosecuting them in courts. But, one has to remember, against terrible provocation. It did maintain its cool. Here is a lesson for New Delhi and the regime its props up in Srinagar.