Arson attack on Indian-origin UK-based family

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Chennai, September 20: An unprovoked arson attack on the house of an Indian-origin family based in the UK, post midnight, on Sunday, September 16, is being treated as a “hate crime” by the police.

The family of four, Mayur Karlekar, his wife Ritu and two young children woke up to a huge blaze outside their home in south-east London’s Borkwood Park area of Orpington. The family of four just managed to escape, while neighbours called the fire brigade. “We all were sleeping and were luckily woken up by neighbours on time,” Kalekar wrote, noting the biggest damage to the house had taken place close to his son’s bedroom. “We are glad it was stopped on time but the damage to our neighbourhood, our society, to our home has been done, irrecoverably,” he wrote, as has been reported by The Hindu’s BusinessLine.

“The Metropolitan Police is investigating this as a hate crime. It is being dealt with as a case of arson and criminal damage. No arrests have been made so far,” a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said on Wednesday.

CCTV images from the area reportedly show a group of four-five youths, dressed in hoodies, attempting to start a fire on the hedges outside the Karlekars’ home.

Mayur Karlekar,  a 43 year old digital consultant who moved to the UK from Mumbai in the late 1990s, originally from Dombivali in Thane district of Maharashtra, said he wanted to ensure no other families in the neighbourhood become victims of similar hate crimes. “Hope this kind of arson attack does not happen to any family as it happened on ours unprovoked. If you know anyone or seen any video floating around on social media of dares, please help stop it. Be safe, be vigilant,” he said in his appeal, as was cited by an NDTV report.

British police describe hate crimes as those perceived as motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic and monitor it under five strands – race or ethnicity; religion or beliefs; sexual orientation; disability; or transgender identity.

According to official figures released earlier this year, incidents of hate crime had registered a spike in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum in 2016. There were 80,393 offences in 2016-17, compared with 62,518 in 2015-16, the largest increase since the UK Home Office began recording these figures in 2011-12.

-By Nandini Paul