BACA trustee racially abused while using London bus calls for improved safety on buses


London: November 7, 2019. (PCP) Yesterday Juliet Chowdhry a trustee for the British Pakistani Christian Association spent the best part of 3 hours at Ilford Police Station where she was required to submit a report on the despicable racially aggravated public order offence she was subjected to while travelling on a Transport for London (TFL) Route 150 bus, via bus carriage company Arriva.

The incident itself had occurred on Sunday 3rd November at around 6.30pm when Juliet had entered the bus via a stop opposite Fullwell Cross Swimming Pool. Juliet paid for her travel and then found her route to the seats was impeded by the leg of an elderly white man estimated to be around 70 years of age.

At first Juliet assumed that the man was simply stretching his leg out to relieve some tension, he was elderly after all, so to cause minimum fuss she simply sat opposite the elderly man on the elevated seats opposite the driver (the man was sitting on a single seat behind bus driver). These seats were Juliet's preferred choice as she had only had a plaster cast removed from her arms two weeks earlier after she had dislocated and fractured her elbow, whilst on a short visit to Barking Abbey with a group of young people who attend the BPCA community centre.

No sooner had she sat down than the elderly man began to insult, abuse and use expletives towards Juliet. Words that he used were 'go back to your own country', 'your people smell', 'women like you should not sit anywhere near me', Paki and a whole range of disgusting expletives. Neither original or intellectual but extremely stinging and painful to Juliet.

Juliet simply ignored him and looked directly forward, despite her anger, feelings of shame and the fear that had begun to consume her, she remained on the bus adamant that she would not let him destroy her day or force her off the bus.

Of course, as can be imagined the very fact that Juliet did not rise to the bait infuriated the man and he got louder and more base with his comments. However fortunately for Juliet the man's stop arrived in short time, but before her alighted the bus he walked close to Juliet and said 'disgusting creatures'.

He said this so loud Juliet felt a pang of embarrassment and emboldened by his leaving said: 'This is not your bus, it's public transport'.

He continued his gross verbal attack on Juliet but relieved that he had gone she simply mulled over what had happened. She planned to make a complaint later and so when she got to the end of the route in Chigwell Row, she wrote down the licence plate of the vehicle and noted the time which was 6,55pm.

However, still in trauma, Juliet told none of her household what had happened she made food for her family and went to sleep and only shared the details of what happened the following day (4th November) late in the afternoon.

On hearing the horrible insults the man had made to her mother, her daughter Naomi who is only 11 yrs of age, was enraged. She said she wished she could hit the man she wanted to speak to him and express what impact hatred like that has on people. But Juliet calmed her saying he is an elderly man and probably had some emotional problems - juliet just wanted to make a complaint to the bus company believing the driver should have done more to protect her. Juliet did not communicate with the bus driver at the time because he was also a white male and with the heightened sensitivity that the trauma of the racial abuse she suffered she became quite paranoid.

Juliet's husband incensed by the incident called Essex Police, the MET police, TFL and Arriva Buses all of whom noted the incident and the police have begun to investigate. Arriva buses have been approached by Mr Chowdhry for CCTV footage or images of the incident however even if they are not provided a request has been for the audio-visual material to be retained till a request is forthcoming via the police.

Juliet Chowdhry, has only been living in the UK for the last 17 years and for her this was a horrid realisation of the intolerance and prejudice that exists in Britain. She has said she realises that such hate exists only in a minority of people but the experience has been terrifying for her. She said:

"I was agitated for the whole journey, I kept thinking he would physically attack me and my arm still has not recovered from my original injury - it was a hopeless situation.

"I did nothing to trigger his hate, moreover I chose silence over any reaction just hoping he would stop but he only became more livid.

"Neither the bus driver or any passengers made any attempt to help me, I was praying someone would extricate me from the danger he posed and just wanted the torrent of abuse to stop.

"He told me I smelt despite the fact I was wearing perfume - he seemed oblivious to his own odour.

"When he left the bus I still felt ashamed and was desperate to get to the end of my journey.

"Being a Pakistani Christian I am used to discrimination in my homeland but now I know nowhere is safe."

The police and Arriva buses have both stated that the CCTV system in the bus does not capture sound. However, the camera will be able to catch the man's leg movements and his entering into Juliet's personal space as he left. If nothing else BPCA hopes that a warning given to the man will prevent other vulnerable women from being verbally attacked by the male in this way. It would seem for all intents and purposes that Juliet's sling and frail state empowered and elderly man into expressing his innermost prejudices with intent to cause emotional harm. This type of evil opportunistic behaviour must be clamped down on especially in these strange days where Brexit seems to be increasing societal polarisation in the UK.

BACA will be writing to TFL and Arriva Buses calling for an enhancement of CCTV so that verbal abuse of this nature can be used to prosecute hate crime offenders. Moreover we are also asking for more vigorous training for bus drivers who must act swiftly to protect innocent passengers caught up in the hatred of malice-filled individuals like this man. We are copying our letter to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who must do more to tackle hate crime and the safety of passengers on our public transport vehicles.

Juliet is now finding it hard to use local buses again, she said:

"I always thought London was a safe, cosmopolitan city but now I fear for my safety and that of my children.

"I don't think I could ever use a public transport bus again - I pray my arm heals soon so I can drive again, TFL provision is just too dangerous."

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