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Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Fragile calm in Burnley
Riot police
Police will have to investigate the events in Burnley
The streets of Burnley in Lancashire saw fresh confrontations on Monday night with 20 people arrested.

Shahid Malik, the son of Burnley's Asian deputy mayor, needed hospital treatment after allegedly being attacked by police.

The BBC's community affairs reporter, Barnie Choudhury, who spent the night in the town, assesses the mood on the streets.

At around 0130BST on Tuesday morning Shahid Malik came out of Burnley General Hospital.

He had been there for seven hours. His face was bloodied and he had needed five stitches.

Yet the first words Mr Malik, a Commissioner for the Commission for Racial Equality, uttered were: "No recriminations. This incident should not stereotype all police officers".

Shahid Malik
Shahid Malik said a riot shield was smashed into him
Such magnanimity after an alleged assault belies a deeper agenda - to make sure Burnley does not have another excuse to flare up.

In a close-knit community word gets around quickly. The appeal for calm was timely. Despite the hour, with Mr Malik was another Asian youth and soon afterwards he was joined by two others.

Their questions remained the same as that asked by Shahid's father Rafiq, the town's deputy mayor, hours earlier - "What do we tell our youth now? Why should they trust the police?"

In the minds of Asians the trial has been held and the verdict delivered.

A prominent representative had been attacked while trying to do good and the police were at fault. Case closed.


As one taxi driver told me: "Now the world knows what all Asians have to put up with."

But it is not as simple as that. For one reason or another, Mr Malik was injured. Now the police will have to investigate the events leading to those injuries.

There will be suspicions of course. How can the police investigate themselves? The answer is, they can and they do - witness the investigation in Sussex.

Mr Malik is right of course - Burnley needs calm.

That means the police need to be transparent in their inquiry if they are to win back the trust of their already fragile communities.

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See also:

25 Jun 01 | UK Politics
MPs condemn Burnley violence
15 Jun 01 | UK Politics
'No no-go areas in Oldham'
25 Jun 01 | UK
In pictures: Burnley riots
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