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UK inner city violence under radar again, with Bidve killing

By Supriya Tiwari

LONDON: The murder of 23-year-old Indian student Anuj Bidve in Salford, Manchester, on Boxing Day in a completely unprovoked attack has outraged Britain, where memories of last summer’s infamous riots are still fresh in many minds.

Bidve arrived from Pune in September 2011 to pursue a master’s degree at Lancaster University.  According to reports, he was with a group of friends who had gone to Manchester to visit the popular Manchester United stadium.

Unfortunately he became a victim of the modern malaise that plagues the inner city Britain, which had raised its ugly head during the riots. Bidve was killed by youth who think nothing of law and order and the idea that murdering somebody would lead to punishment perhaps does not work as a deterrent to them. It is possible that the person who murdered Bidve was psychologically disturbed.

Hearing the news of a visitor to the country being murdered in the early hours of Boxing Day has troubled many Britons. Christmas is a time when families here spend time together with dear ones, and the general atmosphere is very celebratory and peaceful.

The police are treating the murder as a “hate crime,” which translates itself to racist crime. Whether that is really the case, remains to be seen. The UK remains a fair and tolerant society, and it may be that Bidve was at the wrong place at the wrong time, if there is indeed such an explanation for any incident.

The inner city gang culture, which was on full display during the August riots, reflects the fact that where such a misdeed is done, nobody comes forth to ensure that the person who has committed such a crime is held responsible. This is because gangs operate within estates and one gang member is protected within that gang and its code of “respect,” which includes sheltering criminals.

The police arrested a handful of possible suspects soon after the murder, most of whom have since been released. They have now charged a person who they suspect is the murderer.

Given a series of recent public relations problems Britain has had in the subcontinent, such as the case of the infamous Shilpa Shetty-Jade Goody standoff on the Big Brother show a few years ago, authorities are doing all they can to contain any negative PR this incident is going to throw up.

The matter has been taken up in Parliament by Keith Vaz, a Labour MP. The police, who have announced a reward of GBP 50,000 for any  information that could lead to the murderer, apparently are doing all they can to solve the crime as soon as possible. They have flown to India
to meet with the victim’s family.

The officials will reportedly apologise to the family members for not notifying them of their child’s death. Anuj Bidve’s father Subhash Bidve had found out about the murder via Facebook, the social networking site.

The Indian High Commission in London also failed to take the initiative to inform the family given that it was holiday season. The family was not informed by the British High Commission in India either.

The Bidve family called Scotland Yard to confirm what they had just learned on Facebook. The family members have been trying to liaise with Greater Manchester Police to receive Anuj’s body, which has not yet been released by the coroner.

The sensitivity shown by Parliament helped keep the matter in headlines and it has been given priority. A friend of Bidve’s reportedly suggested a peace march in his memory via Facebook.

A candlelight vigil has been held in his memory at the spot in Ordsall Lane where he was killed. People from Salford and other parts of the city have joined in to show their respect for a life lost so young in a foreign land.

This includes members of the British and the Asian communities who are currently living in the UK and who call Britain home. People of Salford have attended the vigil with their children because they have been shocked by the killing over the festive period and they want to send out
the message that this is not how Salford really is, and they do not want this to happen again.

The UK authorities are also hoping that the fact that the police travelled to India and apologized to the parents would help lessen some of the hurt this has caused, especially among families with children studying, or preparing to visit and study Britain.

Given India’s rising position in the global economy, the import of students from India for expensive educational courses and Indians travelling to the UK for tourism are very lucrative businesses.

The importance of income brought in by Indians visiting Britain for tourism was reflected in the New Year’s Eve celebrations in London. There were many people from the subcontinent lined up to sing and celebrate with Auld Lang Syne. Some were students who had come down for New
Year’s Eve to London and some especially travelled to this city to be here to celebrate the event.

This is also the year London hosts the Olympics. With a slow economy, the event is expected to bring more income to the British capital and the Treasury—about GBP 2 billion. Any amount of negative PR would reflect badly on the country and its income streams. Any events held in inner
city locations might lose out in favour of more secure locations, which is not at all encouraging considering that the mega event would help kick-start the economy.

The murder of Bidve can have impact on inward travel from not only the subcontinent, but also from the other emerging economies where parents are willing to send their children for education to Britain.

Many Britons feel that it is imperative that the current law and order situation posed by inner city crime is dealt with as a matter of urgency, so that those visiting the country feel safe in doing so, whether for a holiday or for a longer term. (Global India Newswire)

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