Saturday, October 27, 2001
S T A M P E D  I M P R E S S I O N S

A fight against racism
Reeta Sharma

Suresh Grover
Suresh Grover

THE Pauls were fast asleep, in the security of their home in England, where they had been living for the past 25 years. Constant ringing of the doorbell at midnight woke them up. Narender Paul opened the door, wondering who could have come at that unearthly hour. Paul could not recognise the faces of his visitors as they were all wearing masks. They pounced on him and repeatedly punched him in the face and head. He fell to the ground and when his wife, Kiran Paul, in a state of disbelief rushed to his aid, she too was assaulted. The racists punched her as badly as they had hit her husband.

The nightmare did not end there. The masked men then menacingly rushed upstairs, looking for the other family members. The attackers found Paul's teenaged son Michael's room open. They began attacking him — they slashed his face, broke his nose and stabbed him a number of times. His younger sister, who had woken up to hear the heart-rending cries of her parents, had seen masked men enter her brother's room. Displaying presence of mind, she hid herself and called the police. By the time the police arrived, the attackers had left and the police was left to carry the seriously injured to the hospital.

Victims of racial attack: Kiran, Narender and Michael Paul
Victims of racial attack: Kiran, Narender and Michael Paul 

"But the police action stopped at that only. The police never questioned or arrested or charged anyone. No inquiry was held into this attack till the Pauls approached us," says Suresh Grover, a solicitor who works for the TMG -The Monitoring Group, a registered charity. This group provides legal, moral and practical support to people facing racial harassment, domestic violence, police misconduct, sexual harassment and immigration detention. The TMG also monitors the responses of institutions and authorities with regard to the aforesaid issues. Besides, it provides information at its resource centre. After the Pauls approached the TMG, it held a public meeting along with the Greenford Baptist Church where Neville Lawrence, father of deceased Stephen Lawrence (killed by racists), also addressed the gathering. This made the police force investigate the attack on the Pauls. They eventually charged one person in the case. Search for other attackers continues.

Suresh Grover, born to Indian parents and brought up in England, has been himself attacked twice by racists. "I was quite a promising sportsperson in my college. Oblivious of any racialism, I was having a blissful time till racists attacked me just because the colour of my skin was different. Initially, even my father did not believe that it was racial attack. He kept asking me whether I had provoked somebody. It was only after the second attack that my family realised that racism did exist everywhere around us. The sermon of ‘few bad apples’ is totally false. Once I began actively working for the TMG, the realisation came as a shock that the police force too was racist".

Incidents of racism in the UK began to get noticed and highlighted in 1976 when 16 persons were killed in the Gurdeep Singh Chugger's attack case. Then Bley Peach was killed on April 23, 1979. In retaliation, the police arrested 700 Blacks and Asians of the area. The year 1981 witnessed "Skin Heads" purposely entering Southall under the protection of the police.

Suresh Grover feels that the Asians' anti-racist movement has weakened. They are turning more communal and creating cultural polarisation. "Hindus hold yatras on Janamashtami and other festivals. Similarly, the Muslims and the Sikhs are also increasingly holding public processions on various religious days. All of them have begun to wear their religions on their foreheads. The Asians want to be identified as Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, etc. and not as Asians."

Commenting on the British National Party (BNP), a far-Right group of White racists, Suresh Grover says, "The BNP has increased its electoral strength by gaining 16 per cent of the votes in Oldham and Burnley. Even if the BNP has increased its votes by taking advantage of rampant racism, it cannot be denied that the Asians are weak fighters. The BNP has succeeded in portraying fascism as ‘respectable' racism. In future, the Asians are going to be faced with increased isolation, racist attacks, criminalisation and poverty, besides a provocative fascism at their doorsteps."

Members of the TMG have been at the forefront of national campaigns against racism and injustice such as the Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign. The Stephen Lawrence Public Judicial Inquiry has been one of its kinds in the history of the British criminal justice system. The demand for it became a reality only because of five hard years of campaigning by the Lawrence family and its supporters like the TMG. For the first time, the victim's family, through its legal team, was allowed to examine the role, response and motives of the metropolitan police force of England in a racial murder. So far the inquiry has revealed an epic tale of police incompetence, racism and corruption.

The TMG has a registered office in Southall and has over the years earned a name for itself with its devoted and focused work. Its popularity and commitment to its cause can be gauged from the fact that it has spread its operations to most of the UK. Victims of racial attacks from other parts of Europe too have started approaching the TMG for help. It provides round-the-clock emergency service to the victims. It also provides free-phone service to reach the TMG.

Suresh Grover, who is himself handling 30 cases of racial murders, said that the TMG was also involved in community development works and research projects. "The TMG has established a wide network of advisers and lawyers who are willing to rise to the challenges and use legislation to counter the onslaught of racism. We are actively following the murder of Lakhwinder Ricky Reel, who was a victim of a racial attack, besides several other cases. In all these cases we support the victim's family. The challenge for us is to redouble our efforts to empower people with understanding and to make them respond with action."

"To defeat the culture of racism in the British society what is required is tremendous conviction jointly on part of the Asians and the Blacks", firmly believes Suresh.