Racial tensions may provoke more violence

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The Independent Online
WHITE gangs boastful of their power to fight police or Asians increased tension in Blackburn last night, as mutual hatred between Indians and Pakistanis festered.

White youths had laid plans to get involved in the street skirmishing on Thursday. Swift police anticipation prevented them from opening a second front.

By early yesterday, Lancashire Police had found 50 petrol bombs and made 39 further arrests, many for possession of weapons.

With a restrained show of force, they had sealed off most of the Whalley Range/Brookhouse area of the town, where more than 70 per cent of about 7,000 residents are Asian Muslims. The area prayed together yesterday, but it is unlikely to come together until scores have been settled.

Indians, a three to one majority, have targeted a Pakistani family whom they blame for crime, intimidation and corruption.

Most of the raw nerves that finally snapped on Wednesday, when Khan's Cafe was attacked and burnt by Indians, are highly sensitive to a kidnap 'outrage'.

A young Indian woman, who became involved with the Pakistani criminal clan, is allegedly being held, perhaps against her will, until more ransom money is paid. Her family has already paid pounds 5,000 for her return. The police have not been informed.

The story may be apocryphal, but to young Indians it is a potent allegory. They hate Pakistanis, especially when the undisputed criminality of one Pakistani group during the past three years acts like a wick to latent prejudice.

'Pakistanis are lazy, they are untrustworthy. We know - they work for us,' a young Indian man said, standing with seven friends. Several were graduates.

'The Pakistanis harass our women, they steal or vandalise cars, they get drunk and go with prostitutes - they are the scum of the earth, everyone knows that. The British certainly think it.

'This is not a deprived area. Unemployment has got nothing to do with it. We are hardworking people building good businesses. We want to get this over and done with as soon as possible.'

Older Indians deplore 'bigotry' against Pakistanis. They say there is no evidence to support the kidnap story. Rafique Malik, director of Blackburn's racial equality council, said the violence was not Indian against Pakistani. 'They go to the mosques together, participate together in family and social functions. There is no ethnic animosity - there are criminal people within all communities.'

Young Indians, who say they have been restrained until now by family discipline, have little respect for community leaders.

Nor do young Pakistanis. Most are visibly poorer than Indians, though no less aggressive. 'The Hindus are cheats. We're going to get them,' one said.

Two hundred yards away, in the town centre, National Front slogans were being stuck to lamp-posts and subway walls.

Police and gangs of youths were involved in further running battles on the Brackenhall Estate in Huddersfield on Thursday night. Bottles filled with petrol were thrown at police and one car was set on fire.

West Yorkshire Police said yesterday they believed that the troublemakers had come from outside the estate looking for confrontation. Assistant Chief Constable Bill Hughes said that following talks with community leaders the police were attempting to keep a low profile.