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What is behind the new UK trend of teens being stabbed to death?

Published Mar 9, 2019, 1:19 am IST
Updated Mar 9, 2019, 1:19 am IST
he British authorities have long pondered the causes and preventive measures to tackle this sort of knife crime.
The anti-racist sensitivity on the issue had to be overruled in the face of facts and London’s Asian mayor, Sadiq Khan, endorsed the police’s approach to “stop and search”.  (Photo: AFP)
 The anti-racist sensitivity on the issue had to be overruled in the face of facts and London’s Asian mayor, Sadiq Khan, endorsed the police’s approach to “stop and search”. (Photo: AFP)

“Prayers are not heard or answered—-
Yaaron, mandir or masjid
sey khisko
 The gods have gone deaf with the volume
Like persistent sound in a disco….”
From Shambholic Blessings by Bachchoo

Two 17-year-olds, a girl and a boy, were stabbed to death, one in a quiet suburb of London and the other in a rich suburb of Manchester. The stabbings bring the number of such fatalities to approximately 300 in the last year. Though criminal murder persists in most countries, in Britain today, this teen-on-teen murder is viewed as an epidemic and even a national emergency.

 

The chief of London’s Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, says the cuts in the police force make it impossible to combat it and now the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, says the Army can be deployed to assist the police.

It takes a feat of imagination to envisage what the Army can do, but since the British State says the Army is available, we wait to see how soldiers will be deployed to tackle this civil dilemma.

In the case of Jodie Chesney, the murdered girl, the police is looking for two young black men who encountered her sitting with her boyfriend and others at a park in an evening, stabbed her to death and fled. Most of the fatal crimes committed by teenagers — and if one counts the shootings as distinct from the stabbings, the numbers more than double — are according to the police, gang-related. In turn the existence, formation and criminal activities of the gangs are, as the police say, “drug-related”.

What they mean is the large-scale importers of cocaine to the UK then set up distribution ladders, the lowest rung of which consists of mostly black youth gangs who drive around on scooters to deliver the tiny folded packets to the buyers and get paid for their pains. Naturally, these gangs then fight over custom and territory and shoot or stab each other’s members.

Jodie Chesney was a law-abiding young citizen and had nothing to do with any drug activity. The police can’t speculate as to the motive for her killing, but her grandmother did. She said, very plausibly, that the murderer may have been given an initiation task by a gang. “Stab and kill a random white person if you want to join us.”

As for Youssef Makki, the young man who was about to take up a scholarship to study surgery, his stabbing remains a puzzle. It doesn’t seem to have any connections with the operations of urban gangs. Police chief Cressida Dick was asked in a radio interview whether the middle-class people who were the consumers of cocaine “had blood on their hands”. She said one could put it that way. Perhaps the rich suburb in which Youssef lived harbours some complicated scheme which connects the white powder to the reddened knife. Kya pathha?

Though I live in a borough of London with one of the highest knife-crime statistics in the country, I have not knowingly been in the vicinity of a stabbing. Very often, one or other street of our borough is cordoned off by police cars and tapes but as is correct, the cops at the barriers refuse to say what’s going on.

The closest I have been to a stabbing was not in London but in my hometown of Pune. As teenagers, my friends and I would join the Muharram processions of the Muslim community which circulated the “taboots” or “tazias” around the town with drumming and dancing crowds accompanying them to the Mulla-Muthha river to be drowned at dawn.

On one occasion in the dead of night, the procession stopped. A man had been stabbed a few feet from where my friends and I, in a celebratory mood, were. The by-standers, in a panic, communicated the fact that “boxer Thomas”, a well -known Goan Christian, had been stabbed in the abdomen and was lying, dying in the middle of the road with his guts and his undigested dinner spilt onto the tarmac. There were relayed and rumoured details which we gruesomely absorbed, but which I shall, gentle reader, spare you.

The police arrested one Akbar Rampuria for the murder. His motive was an honour killing because boxer Thomas had seduced Akbar’s Muslim sister and abandoned her.

Akbar was tried for murder, the mode of which became a topic of conversation. The way the knife went into the lower abdomen and was pulled sharply upward to penetrate it upto the divide of the ribs acquired the attributive name of a “Rampuri ghao” or “stroke”. But enough of this indulgent descriptive memory.

The British authorities have long pondered the causes and preventive measures to tackle this sort of knife crime. The statistics indicated very heavily that the stabbings were preponderantly by black youths on black youths. The anti-racist sensitivity on the issue had to be overruled in the face of facts and London’s Asian mayor, Sadiq Khan, endorsed the police’s approach to “stop and search”. This operation targeted black youths on their innocent strolls and in the majority of cases no knives were found, but on balance the police practice was condoned because some knives were.

All manner of sociological explanations are forwarded — single mothers, neglected boys looking for membership of a gang as a substitute for belonging to a family and other plausible but ineffectual truths.

Now a former police commissioner has said the only solution is to put 20,000 more police onto the streets of Britain’s cities and to target, with every resource available, the wholesale importers of cocaine. Stopping supply at the source will kill the killing gangs’ business.

Easier said than done.

The alternative now being seriously suggested is to legalise cannabis and cocaine. Capitalism versus Crime as in the abolition of prohibition in the US and India. This will certainly affect the bad behaviour and the health of a minority, but it will eliminate the raison d’etre of the knifing gangs.

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