1,400 girls repeatedly raped over 16 years, in a faded English town by gangs of Pakistani men.

That is basically the flagrant crux of what has flayed Rotherham. This is much more than just a horror story.

While the journalistic gaze is transfixed, and rightly so, on more pressing issues blistering the world down, including Israel and ISIS or Gaza and Hamas, let us give Rotherham’s story an apropos dwelling of shame in the nightmarish summer of 2014.

Raped by numerous perpetrators, doused with petrol, trafficked to other towns, abducted, groomed with alcohol and drugs, thrashed, burnt, urinated on, assaulted and intimidated. The sickening nature of abuse that the victims suffered is not a cinch to describe.

But the story has floated ashore just now. An independent report authored by Professor Alexis Jay exposed the veracity behind the banal north England town, just outside the city of Sheffield in South Yorkshire.

The authorities

Senior social care managers "underplayed" the quandary, police considered many victims with contempt, local authorities chose to overlook it in the distress of being termed racists/bigots, whatever you want to call it. Local politicians had better reasons- the vote bank dilemma. They were too petrified of losing votes from Rotherham's enormous Muslim population.

"Several councilors interviewed believed that by opening up these issues they could be 'giving oxygen' to racist perspectives that might in turn attract extremist political groups and threaten community cohesion," the report's says.

And hence, the rapes continued relentlessly.

Those who made an effort to speak out were threatened with guns and forced to watch brutal gang rape videos. The rapists told the girls they would be next if they dared to reveal. A female employee of Rotherham council who decried, finally, was accused for being Islamophobic and sent to a “ethnicity and diversity course” by her child protection superiors. She was also told to “never, ever” again refer to the ethnicity of the perpetrators.

So, the whole system was sinking into a gutless abyss of political correctness, or as the report says “collective failure”, that allowed naïve girls, mostly white and from dysfunctional, humble backgrounds, to be assaulted constantly and systematically.


Often the victims were children from negligent and troubled families and housed in state-run social care facilities, apparently for their protection. Usually a lonely girl would be approached by a young man, befriended, introduced to other, older men at parties who plied her with drink, drugs and free gifts.

And then the abuse began, almost unexpectedly and abruptly. Some of the victims were as young as eight years old.

One victim, now 24, says she was 12 when first approached by a group of boys in an arcade in Rotherham. The pattern was almost robotic. The young men struck up a friendship with her.

She was completely unaware of the fact that she was being “groomed” for sexual abuse. The grooming went on for a year, in which she was introduced to older men, to soft drugs and alcohol, just as the protocol was designed. She never felt unsafe or uncomfortable until with these gangs of men this point. And then it began.

She was raped, gang raped, once a week, every week.

Her abusers began to force her to have sex with "whoever wanted to come and have sex with me".

She gathered courage to go to police only three months after this started, with her clothes as a piece of evidence. But the police lost the clothes and hence the evidence vanished in thin air.

The police refused to offer any assistance unapologetically and she had no choice but to drop the charges.

They started threatening her with the idea of raping her mother. They knew all about her and her family as she had told them during the time her grooming was on.

The only way out was moving out the town. That’s what saved her life from turning more morbid.

The predators

Pakistanis first came to Rotherham in the late 1950s and early ’60s, swayed by the immigration wave that brought men from the Indian subcontinent to Britain. They were typically from rural Kashmiri villages, socially conservative and regressive in thought.

This community has not evolved or progressed much and remains conspicuously penurious, with more than two-thirds of Pakistani households below the poverty line. The unemployment rate for the least educated young Muslims is close to 40 percent.

Rotherham has the third-most isolated Muslim population in England. The bulk, 82 percent, lives in just three of the town’s council electoral wards. During elections, voter turnout can be as low as 30 percent, and winning or losing is based on small margins. This scenario has led to what you call patronage.

Rotherham is governed by Labour politicians, who allied themselves with conservative Pakistani leaders, who then, held power. This clearly elucidates why this issue remained underground for eons.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative politician said that it allows some Pakistani men to consider young white women “fair game.”

If working-class Pakistanis were represented better in the political class, police authorities, social care, and media, the attitude towards ethnicity would have been less nauseous.

Fortunately for them, in Rotherham, the predators discovered that their ethnicity and religion sheltered them because they belonged to a community, not many dared to challenge. And the acts became a local way of living.

The economic conditions

Once known as a flourishing centre of Britain's steel and coal industries, Rotherham now epitomizes the poverty of post-industrial Britain.

Some believe that it is poverty, and not racial sensitivities, that is the key culprit to be blamed for such gigantic-scale exploitation in Rotherham.

Social stigmas, vulnerability, misplaced notions of racism/ethnicity all amalgamated with the fact that the victims belonged to deprived backgrounds. This could easily become about race and community, white victims and Muslim perpetrators, when it is also about socio-economic truths.


Do you get the privilege to be politically and socially untouchable because you belong to an ethnic and religious background that is apparently untouchable in one part of the world, while in most other regions, that particular ethnicity/religion is seen with a perpetual skepticism?

Should there be a class hierarchy for victims? Is it valid to argue on class distinctions since the victims hail from poor backgrounds and are considered “sexually available” owing to their skin colour. The racially inflected misogynistic police officers, thought that vulnerable white girls exploited by immigrant men were “tarts” and deserved what they got. That they were not really worthy of any protection.

This scandal is a viscous assortment of many iniquities -traditionalism, racism, power, retrogression, exploitation, vote banks – each one as truculent as the other. Yet, the mystery did not unfold until 2014. It is unnerving as well as shocking to comprehend how such acts can remain obfuscated from and in the modern world for decades?

How can such heinous acts be snubbed for 16 years without grabbing eyeballs? How can such appalling crimes be obscured so meticulously by the residents and authorities? Where were all the busy-money-minting media houses and journalists hibernating? How can those who write neurotically about patriarchal vices and rape culture neglect the vile acts that occurred in Rotherham?

During a period when journalism thrived and how, when nothing was unheeded from the keen eye of media, honest and audacious investigative reportage could have been the only sharp weapon that could have enfeebled this atrocity without a doubt.

If only Rotherham had some mettle and the world some time.