It was scary, says Sikh leader in Britain

New Delhi: Recalling a terrifying night of plunder, a Sikh community leader in a British town says, “It was scary”.

“The rioting started yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon and shops were looted and cars were set on fire. It continued through the night,” Dya Singh, president of Guru Har Rai Gurdwara Sahib, said from West Bromwich town in the West Midlands, England.

Violence erupted in London over the fatal shooting of a man by police and quickly spread to other cities in Britain. London, which is to stage the Olympic Games, next year saw shops being looted and buildings set afire for four consecutive days. While the British capital became comparatively peaceful Wednesday, unrest gripped other cities.

West Bromwich, with about 200,000 people, was also affected. A number of Sikhs and Hindus call it home.

There was no control on the situation, said Dya Singh who quickly added that as day broke, it became “relatively peaceful”.

Dya Singh said people were put on security duty to protect their gurdwara.

“We have 24 hour security duty at the gurdwara. And not just in our gurdwara, but in all other gurdwaras. About 100 to 200 people are there to protect it,” he said.

Dya Singh is president of the Gurdwara Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib that was established in 1979 by Baba Harbans Singh Domeli Wale following the arrival in Britain from village Domeli in Kapurthala district in India’s Punjab state.

Over a million Indians are estimated to be living in Britain.

Violence began in the British capital’s northern district of Tottenham Saturday over the fatal shooting of a man by police.

Some 300 people gathered outside a police station in Tottenham on the night of Aug 6 to demand “justice” after 29-year-old cab driver and alleged drug dealer Mark Duggan was killed in a shootout with police Aug 4.

The unrest spread quickly and soon took in its grip cities like Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham.

West Bromwich, where violence broke out Tuesday, is an old town which even finds mention in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Fine Victorian buildings bear testimony to West Bromwich’s importance as an industrial centre. The pedestrianised town centre has half a mile of shops and market stalls. By Rahul Dass