The Telegraph
| Sunday, August 31, 2014 |

7days

Eye on England

Eye on England
Amit Roy

When Asian means Pakistani

  • Horror borough: Rotherham, the scene of crimes against children; (above) Alexis Jay

The word "Asian" is a convenient one that lumps together Indians and Pakistanis in the UK. But some Indians object to its use when Pakistanis, who have cornered the market in the sexual abuse of vulnerable white girls in the northern areas of England, are called "Asian".

They should be described as "Pakistani", argue angry Indians — and indeed this is what has happened in a report published last week into sex crimes committed in the Yorkshire town of Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. Its population is 2,58,400 but Pakistanis, including Mirpuris, who numbered 7,912 in 2011, were guilty of nearly all the sex abuse of children.

The perpetrators were "primarily Pakistani men", the BBC reported — and the rest of the British media has taken a similar line.

The report commissioned by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and undertaken by Professor Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work in Scotland, begins grimly.

"No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham," Prof. Jay writes. "Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited from 1997 to 2013."

"It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered," she emphasises. "They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated. There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone."

Prof. Jay, who announced her findings at a press conference, says that police conduct "fell far short of what could be expected" because they did not want to prosecute Pakistanis for fear of being branded "racist" and stirring up religious tension. "Children as young as 11 were deemed to be having consensual sexual intercourse when in fact they were being raped and abused by adults."

Meanwhile, Pakistani councillors in Rotherham Council blocked any moves to take action for fear this would tarnish the image of their community.

Similar abuse has been taking place in Pakistani communities in Oldham, Oxford and elsewhere. The problem is compounded because these same communities are now also providing would-be terrorists as well as young men going off to fight "jihad" in Syria and Iraq.

However, one should not assume that the perpetrators, numerous though they are, represent the whole of the law abiding, 1m-strong Pakistan population.

Pak victims

There was one surprising aspect in the Jay report — it revealed some Pakistani girls were also targeted.

They "were most vulnerable to men from their own communities who manipulated cultural norms to prevent them from reporting their abuse".

Pakistani women felt "disenfranchised" because "there was too much reliance by agencies on traditional community leaders such as elected members and imams".

"Offending behaviour mostly involved men operating in groups," it goes on. "The physical abuse included oral, anal and vaginal rape; role play; insertion of objects into the vagina; severe beatings; burning with cigarettes; tying down; enacting rape that included ripping clothes off and sexual activity over the webcam. This description mirrors the abuse committed by Pakistani-heritage perpetrators on white girls in Rotherham."

Seema's strike

  • Miliband's choice: Seema Malhotra

Seema Malhotra's appointment last week as the Labour Party's "shadow minister for preventing violence against women and girls" couldn't have been timelier, for it coincided with Prof. Alexis Jay's report.

Seema, the 42-year-old Labour MP for Feltham and Heston in west London, "will champion the needs of all victims of rape, domestic and sexual violence, as well as FGM (female genital mutilation), forced marriage, trafficking and prostitution".

Seema, who was born in London into a Punjabi family, visited Punjab earlier this year in a "back to roots journey".

Recognising that the women's vote will be critically important in next year's general election, Seema's appointment has been made by Ed Miliband.

"Her appointment is another indication of the importance a Labour government will place on tackling violence against women and girls," the Labour leader pledged.

"The Labour Party is committed to establishing the first ever commissioner for domestic and sexual violence," revealed Seema.

Perhaps Narendra Modi should have a word with Seema.

Gujju gang

The Indian Prime Minister is lucky in one respect in that he has an unofficial "Gujju gang" working for him in Britain. One of its influential members is Lord Navnit Dholakia who has accompanied the deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, to India as his "unpaid business adviser".

As leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, I do hope Clegg is not trying to flog fighter aircraft to India.

As for Navnit, who is deputy Lib Dem leader in the Lords (modelled on India's Rajya Sabha), he won't mind if I point out he knows as much about business as I do. His background is in race relations.

Navnit is a soft-spoken man, who came to Britain in 1956 from Tanzania where he was born on March 4, 1937. I can reveal his real expertise is in gardening — he has grown grapes.

His wife, Ann, who comes loyally with him to all Indian functions — and there are half a dozen on most nights — says she does what she is told in the garden.

Their home was nearly cut off by biblical floods in February. However, Navnit was delighted that new species of plants came floating by and embedded themselves at the edge of his garden.

"At the local nursery, they would cost �10 each," Navnit observed happily.

Perhaps he will make a good business adviser after all.

PM hoisting

  • High time: Gita Mathai (right) and Rachel Booth

Paeans of praise were heaped upon Narendra Modi at the (delayed) Independence Day celebrations last Sunday in the grounds of the Indian Gymkhana Club in Isleworth, Middlesex.

Some 4,000 Indians turned up — this had nothing to do with the delicious chana bhature, jalebi and other delicacies that were being served from numerous stalls.

It was nice to see Gita Mathai and Rachel Booth, wife of the high commissioner and deputy high commissioner, respectively, wandering round like schoolgirls at a picnic (which the event really is).

After the flag hoisting (which brought down a shower of rose petals), the high commissioner Ranjan Mathai drew attention to the choicest bits in the PM's Red Fort speech.

A programme, which I shall preserve, immortalised the thoughts of chairman Modi, among them, "If you work 12 hours, I will work for 13"; "In manufacturing, stress on zero defect"; and "Make in Singur". OK, maybe I made one bit up.

Tittle tattle

  • Star draw: Ashok Amritraj in the Cinema Suite

Ashok Amritraj was in London last week on his way to Venice. There, 99 Homes, starring Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man), Michael Shannon (Superman) and Laura Dern, of which Ashok is a producer, was getting the full "red carpet, black tie world premiere" treatment.

With the help of Digvijay Singh, general manager of the St. James Court Taj Hotel, where Ashok was staying, I ushered the movie mogul into the opulent Sabyasachi-decorated Cinema Suite, complete with (politically incorrect) animal trophies.

My mistake, I thought Ashok would be strong enough to take it.

"My God!" uttered Ashok and almost fell down in a dead faint.

As usual I exaggerate — but not much.