In follow up from our recent news article https://uknfs.org/uknfs-team-taking-support-action-and-considering-further-support-in-regard-to-covid-19-context-racist-attack-in-maidstone/ the UKNFS has on 21st April made the following representation and action request, detailed below:
FAO Chief Constable Alan Pughsley QPM, Council Leader Cllr Martin Cox, KCC Leader Cllr Roger Gough, the Honorable Helen Grant MP, Kent PCC Mr Matthew Scott: IMPORTANT Representation on multiagency intervention effective action request concerning Maidstone anti-BAME / anti-Nepali Gurkha and Asian attacks
Date: 21st April 2020
Dear Chief Constable, Cllr Cox, Cllr Gough, the Honorable Helen Grant, and Mr Scott,
You will all sadly be aware of the recent attack on our Nepali – Gurkha community in Maidstone, symptomatic of a much broader engrained problem of anti-Asian racism afflicting our Gurkha and other communities in Maidstone and elsewhere in Kent.
I provide this formal request and representation to you collectively, from the UK Nepal Friendship Society (UKNFS: www.uknfs.org) — whose Official Patron is H.E. the Ambassador of Nepal to the UK — with the strongly supportive awareness of our friends of the Non-Residential Nepali Association UK (NRNA UK) for concerted multiagency action from yourselves and your respected organisations. The attack referred to is of course, as mentioned symptomatic — rather than a one-off, isolated – of a broader much greater extensive underlying issue of disaffected anti-social elements within not only the Maidstone community, but broader UK community who struggle with and reject those different or perceived to be different to themselves.
Firstly, we want to record our thanks to the Kent Messenger and its journalist Mr Rhys Griffiths for his searing and informative article which captured so well the scale and nature of this currently being ineffectually challenged criminal, racist anti-social hate crime. And also the fact that our Nepali-Gurkha community, retired Gurkha soldiers and their families and the broader Asian community in Maidstone (and from our own at the UKNFS in-community awareness, broader Kent Asian community, including in Ashford and Folkestone and beyond, awareness) are in a state of fear-anger, and disillusionment about enduring such criminal conduct on a clearly almost daily basis.
The report provides a further appalling dimension: Nepali NHS nurses and healthcare workers, AND social care workers (the latter held in contempt by Whitehall’s Home Office ‘hostile environment’ regime as ‘unskilled’) living with fear of coming home day by day (this is our actual knowledge through closer in-community research from our direct UKNFS side) to know the following. Whether or not family elders, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers have experienced cowardly attacks of this kind, or having with heavy heart to share their own similar experiences: all of this whilst playing their key role in our hospitals and care homes, saving lives.
We include below for your collective liaison on taking action, the following salient points from the Mr Griffith’s article:
“He was telling me ‘it’s finally happened, we got attacked’ …
Now members of the wider family – many of whom are working in the NHS on the frontline against Covid-19 – say they fear further attacks against the town’s Asian communities.
Angela Limbu, niece of security guard Ram Kumar Limbu whose Ford Focus was targeted … says members of the Nepalese community in the county town have experienced a rise in animosity since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic began in China.
She said: “You know because of social media, we’ve seen around the world, just random people, not even Chinese people but if you are just simply Asian, you see a lot in social media that people are just getting attacked.
“Even if my dad goes to the local supermarket we’re always telling him ‘make sure you cover yourself’, because as Asians we get the stereotypical view that ‘oh, they’re Chinese. they’ve brought coronavirus to the UK’. So we’re always being very cautious.
“We can’t even go for our one-hour walk before someone calls us ‘Chinese, go back to your own country’ or ‘stop eating bats’, comments like that. And I think it’s just uneducated people really, isn’t it.
“And that’s why today as soon as I came home, we’re planning to take our car elsewhere, because we just live five minutes from my cousins. And everyone is thinking, you know, what next? Is it going to be our house next that they’re going to throw fire at?”
As you will all be aware, Maidstone has historic, formal connection with our honoured friends, the Gurkha soldiers who have for more than two hundred years been in the vanguard of most of the key engagements of historically important wars, formerly for the British Empire, and from after 1945 for a new, multicultural self-confident UK. These historic connections with Nepal through the Gurkhas include with the Royal Gurkha Rifles Regiment and the Queens Gurkha Engineers. Not far from Maidstone, is Ashford and beyond, Folkestone.
Ashford is the core location for the Sherpa community in the UK: the UKNFS has been hearing ASB experiences exist too in that community and area, and in nearby Folkestone (like Maidstone another famous army town with historic links to the Gurkhas at the Shorncliffe Barracks) we have other sections of the Brigade of Gurkhas of the British Army, including in military music circles, Folkestone the home of the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas – the Band was raised in 1859 after the Gurkhas played a decisive role to support the British in ending the Indian Mutiny.
Clearly, although criminal behaviour will always be criminal behaviour, the ASB phenomenon that has been revealed in the April 16th Kent Messenger Online article as so ingrained in a very small racist anti-minorities bullying section of the general population, makes clear that for substantive change to take place, educational resources and modern 2020’s credible educational and social competence solutions are necessary. These involving a thorough look at failings and perceived failings in the education system and related areas where social competence skills and awareness of diversity and its key part in the fabric and history of our nation, are critically important to have and be clearly presented.
On this – the educational dimension of solutions — our friends at The Royal British Legion (TRBL) whose Director General has been copied into this communication, have a key and very honourable part to potentially, play. A TRBL educational awareness initiative across TRBL branches & clubs nationwide, with information resources that the UKNFS can provide, on the role of the Gurkhas in our military and national history would be invaluable, and project as well the importance of TRBL’s role in the fabric of our nation. An attack on the home and family of a retired Gurkha is the same as an attack on the home and family of EVERY retired soldier, including D-Day veterans.
At a broader, structured, national level the education is fundamental to addressing successfully anti-minorities (race/religion/culture/LGBT/Disabilities) ASB. This rests with not only institutions such as schools, colleges, adult education, universities, but especially with those who set curricula and national level exams and tests (such as the Whitehall, Home Office immigration regime implementing ‘Life in the UK Test’).
The UKNFS and with us broader Asian and BAME communities would be/will be very ready and enthusiastic to play our parts in regard to such educational level initiatives, advised above. In regard to the educational dimension of medium to long-term solutions the unacceptable Maidstone situation, as with that of Nepalis/Gurkhas and other members of the Asian community in Swindon, require approach to, engagement with in clear ways national level education shaping and directing entities at Westminster and Whitehall; we hope that together we can have in the weeks ahead collaboration and valuable discussion to expedite these.
Words are no longer enough: action is needed, and swiftly:
Nobody should have to live with such fear and unacceptable circumstances for a single day, far less on a daily basis: we are certain that you will each agree with this, as evidenced by your organisations greatly respected and appreciated positions on prejudice and hate crime. Would any of us be able to live, work, study, sleep properly or have good health and sense of wellbeing living in such circumstances? Certainly Not.
The targets of these – what I am sure you will agree — criminal cowards are, incredibly, retired Gurkhas and their families. The Gurkhas are rightly recognised for their heroism, loyalty and sacrifice, to be in the public consciousness known as ‘more British than the British.’ It is now time for our British state (Whitehall, Westminster, as well as Kent and Maidstone) to respond effectively, unequivocally, to repay that trust and sacrifice. A debt of honour to be redeemed in full and effectively as we enter the third century of the special friendship with Nepal, Britain’s oldest and most loyal and trusted ally in Asia, and still more importantly, land of the Gurkhas.
The eyes of the whole of the UK Nepali community (and increasingly as our Indian – Sikh friends of Hampshire/Southampton, copied in, solidarity, concern, evidences) and on a mounting basis, broader Asian communities in Kent and the South East indicate, such criminal racist conduct is showing to be on a rising daily basis. The Nepali news media, community organisations across the nation and indeed news media in Nepal itself, are currently looking at Maidstone, at Kent. The phenomenon is undoubtedly as I am sure you will all agree, shaming to the name of Britain; a situation that cannot be tolerated for multiple reasons, as I am sure you will each be aware.
Consequently, with action, multiagency action closely coordinated with the community, a corresponding great opportunity exists; IF action is taken. I include on this a directly relevant example of intervention from Swindon & Wiltshire where some fifteen months ago similar, albeit less extreme, anti-South Asian/Gurkha criminal ASB was commonplace and unchallenged: https://uknfs.org/uknfs-support-to-our-swindon-nepali-gurkha-community-in-face-of-experience-of-community-wide-racist-asb-2/
- To enable feeling, as much as to literally be ‘supported’ and made to feel welcome for our Nepali-Gurkha and broader Asian community (frontline soldiers and frontline nurses healthcare workers and social care workers) is the first priority; involving a joint statement of support by your respective organisations and yourselves directly from Member of Parliament to PCC, councils leaders, and Chief Constable levels
- That South East Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is requested to review in earnest its records across the main Nepali population concentration areas of Kent for the past two years, to share how many racially aggravated anti-Nepali-Gurkha prosecutions – and indeed as the Kent Messenger article of 16th April indicates, broader Asian population — were brought, and how many successful
- Crime stoppers: that a dedicated Asian/BAME anti-racist ASB Crime stoppers campaign be launched across Kent as soon as possible (suggested for within 10 – 14 days). The UKNFS is working closely with Crime stoppers in the South West on in-Nepali information resources and related dissemination campaign
- That a news media supportive statement from local/Maidstone and Kent to SE England newspapers and radio and TV news (Meridian and BBC South Today) be developed within the next 2 – 4 weeks by those leads and figures to whom this representation has been addressed in conjunction with direct community leads, and with as many as possible of those organisation and officers and figures copied in to this representation & request, providing their support to that statement.
- A Data collection push (Dorset Police, Maidstone council and KCC) in partnership with the community to map types and scale of the problem – addressing the reticence and confidence in reporting issue (data to come to community leads, who would then provide to Kent Police). This will help identify hotspots of racist ASB
- Education sector — with a crucial role in this potentially for The Royal British Legion – this has to be on history, myth-busting, dispelling ignorance of key facts and how the latter is the underpinning of racism and other forms of prejudice. We believe the special relationship between TBRL and the Gurkhas, commonly through the shared experience of military service and war of retired soldiers would be an invaluable educational and dissemination resource.
- Actions such as can come from the West Kent/ Kent sports sector, particularly football, on where professional to amateur sportspeople stand on racist ASB. The intervention of Wiltshire FA in regard to the Nepali-Gurkha and broader Asian and BAME ASB problems in Swindon, mentioned above, provide a priceless intervention to restore a feeling in the town that ‘Nepalis – Gurkhas, Asian and broader BAME community members are welcome and valued in Swindon’
We have provided copy of this representation to:
- The Royal British Legion (TRBL): FAO Director General Mr Charles Byrne
- The CEOs of Maidstone, Ashford, and Folkestone & Hythe councils
- The Editor, and journalist Mr Rhys Griffyths
- For the Crown Prosecution Service South East England we have utilised the Crown Court and the Magistrates email addresses (as there was no general or direct email for CPS South East England), with this communication addressed to Chief Crown Prosecutor Mr Frank Ferguson
- Mr Nabin Pokharel, one of the UK Nepali and Nepal’s lead journalists and news editors
- The Office of the Embassy of Nepal
- The President of the Non Residential Nepali Association (NRNA UK) Mrs Poonam Gurung, and one of the vice presidents of the NRNA UK, Mrs Rojina Pradhan Rai directly involved in liaison support with our Nepali – Gurkha community in Maidstone
- Mr Ram Limbu (Maidstone community, and named in the Kent Messenger Online news article
- Mr Sana Sherpa, President of the Sherpa Association UK
- Two leads of our Indian Sikh community (South Coast, Hampshire/Southampton), Mr Pritheepal Singh and Mr Harjap Singh who have wished to show solidarity in regard to this representation
We also provide awareness of our representation regarding the role football can play a part in the proposed solution (as it did in Swindon with Wiltshire FA) to English FA’s Equality & Inclusion officer, Mr Kevin Coleman (Wembley).
The Nepali-Gurkha community is looking to effective action to be taken by our local government and crime prevention and prosecution entities to take action, and because (as the Swindon experience demonstrates, and certainly community members, as mentioned in nearby Ashford and Folkestone) in regard to this shameful, and completely unacceptable blight on the name of Maidstone and our nation.
This is certainly the case with our broader Asian community (both South Asian and East Asian) where a momentum is growing day by day (as indicated by our friends of the Indian Sikh community, referred to) for substantial change from the underlying experience of prejudice and hate crime, to ensuring the very small minority of non-BAME population members with routinely racist / racist-sociopathic records of conduct, can no longer carry on in the criminal behaviour with contempt for the Law, authorities, and for the broader general population (non-BAME and BAME including other minorities targeted by the prejudiced).
We believe through the suggested actions and multiagency coordination with the community/communities affected at the heart of actions to implement, at every step, we can together accomplish complete success, and as a consequence transform community cohesion, and the quality of life for all sections of society.
We look forward greatly to your response, and working with you in regard to this crucial matter, in the ways suggested, and in turn stand in readiness to play our part in other ways that you may each and your respective organisation, advise. As the Covid 19 emergency has demonstrated we all have to pull together to protect each other; racist ASB is an attack on us all.
Chief Executive Officer, UK Nepal Friendship Society
Tel: 07811 269 454