A young presenter of a Sikh TV station in Birmingham who has won accolades for its coverage of the arson and looting in the British city has become a Facebook hero.
Ever since he helped pursuing policemen to catch rioters on Birmingham’s streets, the action captured by his own hand-held camera, Upinder Randhawa has become a virtual celebrity.
And scores of Britons, including Prime Minister David Cameron, are lauding the face of
Sangat TV, which is run from a small, makeshift newsroom in Edgbaston. Its footage has been used by CNN, BBC and media outlets in India.
The India-born Randhawa, 31, who came to Britain in 2005, now has a fan page on Facebook. Called “Upinder Randhawa from Sangat TV is a Legend”, it already has over 4,000 followers.
An online post said: “Do you think we could actually get Upinder to run for MP? Honestly would make a fantastic MP! Don’t you think?”
Stephanie Evans wrote: “Upinder, you are one legendary man!! U brought the best updates from the midlands! Ya gave Sky News n BBC a good run for there money!! Sangat tv for the win!:)”
A third post said: “You my friend, are a true legend, I don’t know you but respect you. Keep up the extraordinary work your doing. your a true solider vaheguru.”
On Tuesday night, Sangat TV shot a police pursuit of rioters in Birmingham, home to a large number of Indians, including Sikhs.
As police lagged behind, Randhawa asked the police officer: “Do you need a lift? We’ll give you a lift. Get in the car.”
Less than a minute later, the rioters had been arrested.
Randhawa has told the British media that he was not afraid of facing the mobs.
“I wasn’t scared even though it was the first time I had covered stuff live,” the Sun quoted him as saying. “Wherever people me the riots were, that’s where we went.
“I really wish I could have done a lot more. People are saying nice things but it is not me who is the hero.”
Birmingham city councillor Gurdial Singh Atwal says Sangat TV started because the community felt the British media wasn’t “giving coverage to us”.
“So we all collected money (and) started the channel,” Atwal said.
Riots broke out in London Aug 6 after the fatal shooting of a man by police. The unrest spread to other cities, including Birmingham.
Atwal, 61, said that they have been “enthusiastic” about the coverage of the arson and looting.
The channel’s work has won appreciation over the internet. The British prime minister described it as an example of a media company’s commitment to social responsibility.
Atwal, who arrived in Britain in 1968, said the TV footage is given free of cost.
He said it takes about 50,000 pounds a month to run the channel. The money comes from donations.
The 55,000-strong Sikh community in Birmingham actively helps out, with support from 350,000 Sikhs in West Midlands. Britain has over one million Indians.
Describing Sangat TV’s coverage as guerrilla journalism, BBC said Randhawa, who just has a camera and a microphone, has become a well-known face in the coverage of the riots. By Rahul Dass