The UK Riots And What India Could Learn From Them

Posted on August 26, 2011 in Specials

By Namrata Nadkarni:

When one of the most prime cities in the world, London, falls prey to the cacophony and dissonance of riots, it makes one but wonder about what could possibly have been done to tranquilize the wrath of the insurgence.

With a country like India, which has had certain sudden occurrences of riots amongst other infuriated acts, we have a lot to learn from the London mutiny to ease the fury that follows such an act.

The British Government along with their police force seem to be in a state of complete denial to the basic causes that led to the violence. However, there are lessons veiled in it for India as well as for other nations of South Asia which are, or will soon be, forced to think about the after-effects of an entirely unregulated march of global capital under the guise of liberal economic policies, and the refusal of the Government to play its role as a nurturer and protector in a welfare state. With six thousand communal riots, and hundreds of other incidents of mass violence, India must do some thinking.

One of the major complains heard from across the globe were “the BBC coverage of the London riots is terrible”. The BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) on the other hand did a much better job in circulating videos via internet to make them viral within minutes of their occurrences. Hence, having well established media coverage is highly essential during times like the riots. The reporting allows the rational spectator to be well aware of the proceedings. It also keeps those in the city or town well informed about the status at hand. Especially in a city like India, where communal strains already exist, a sudden misconception about those involved in the riots can set off larger problems, ablaze.

British social scientist and author Ron Boyd-Macmillan said:

“Inner city deprivation has led to the violence. In the economic policies followed by a succession of Governments, the people living in the inner cities — people of Caribbean origin as much as poor among the Whites — had been totally ignored. There was no investment in their education. They felt they had been disowned by society, if partly by their own choice. A lot of the urban youth were angry that they did not belong to society.”

One of the major facts brought to light by the London riots is that elements of subclasses are being criminalized in recent times. It speaks for the real quality of the Police, that they had little intelligence on these developments, focused as they were on the political watch on Islam.

There is also emerging evidence that the riots were very well organised, either in deliberate outside organisations or through contemporary social networks.

The strong foothold of social networks in the lives of the youth today is required to be monitored closely. Drives, awareness and campaigns are seen to take place every day on these online platforms. Being well aware of what is brewing via these media shall keep the authorities well acquainted on future thought-processes that might be instrumental in infuriating such rebellions.

The awareness of the police force is also a major aspect, which even the Indian scenario can relate to. Concentrating on the prospective regional uprisings, have led them to overlook the physical poverty augmenting in the by-lanes of the country. This poverty serves to be the very fuse that sets off a conflagration on the scales of the London riots. Hence paying immediate attention to the calls of the poor and understanding their needs is the requirement of the hour, so that the Government, long on rabblerousing rhetoric and short on political acumen will be able to set up policies and structures to not just defuse the tension, but provide that long-term growth and human dignity which the people, in their twin identities as arsonists and victims are seeking.