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Stop and search — Sikh barrister is viewed as threat

Police harassment in the wake of the London bombings stretches far beyond stopping and searching young Muslim men. Navtej Ahluwalia is a barrister working in London. He describes his recent encounter with the authorities.

Issue No. 1962

Navtej Ahluwalia

Navtej Ahluwalia

On Wednesday of last week I had to get a 7.25am train to Nottingham for a court case. I ran for the train, but was stopped at the barrier and told that I wasn’t able to board without a ticket.

I protested, saying that every time I’d taken that train I’d bought a ticket on the train.

They told me it wasn’t possible and gave me a blank look. So I ran downstairs, bought a ticket and ran back on to the train again. Once I’d sat down, two station managers came up to me and said they wanted me to get off the train.

They alleged I’d pushed a member of staff at the ticket barrier. This was untrue, so at first I refused their request. They replied that they were not going to let me travel.

I got off the train. Then the police came up to me and said they required me to submit to a search under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

I told them this was ridiculous, that I was a barrister travelling to Nottingham for a court case. They replied that in the “current climate” they regarded my behaviour as suspicious.

I asked them what their basis was for saying that, given that my behaviour wasn’t anything other than that of a person getting on a train. They replied that they remained of the view that my actions were suspicious.

Eventually I told them that I didn’t accept they had grounds to search me under the Terrorism Act, but I wouldn’t stop them looking in my bags. All this was happening on the platform and everyone around me was looking. Of course, they found nothing.

I felt humiliated. I wear a turban and I’m quite evidently a Sikh. I told them my name and the officers went away to check who I was on the radio. I eventually got to court late and the case had to be put back.

On the way back to London I just didn’t want to get on the train at all. I’ve noticed there’s an open hostility among members of the public at the moment, that they’re watching me carefully.

It’s very unpleasant. I’m driving everywhere I go now.

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Article information

Sat 6 Aug 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1962
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