It was July the 11th, 1981 and that was the day where there were lots and lots of riots up and down the country, in lots of different places. And we heard rumours that the NF, or skinheads...the fascists were coming to Bradford and the police had gone round and said that and they told everybody to stay indoors. Now we took the view that it’s totally wrong. We’re not going to stay indoors, we’re going to get out and we’re going to organize people.
The previous weekend Southall, sort of, other cities had been attacked and it was clear from the police response in those cities that the Asian communities really in the end had to defend themselves. And we took the decision that we would not let a similar situation arise in Bradford where fascists would walk in and actually destroy part of Bradford where Black communities lived.
And we...lots of different groups took different areas, the IWA took the Leeds Road side of Bradford, we decided to protect the Manningham area. And I.....I think we must have met Marsha and all the other AYM people as well.
...in Manningham in one area I think, some women came out and fed us all. Or gave us food as we were going through ... samosas or whatever they had... It was a bit of festival really.
I did ask one of my friends, Tarlochan, you know at that time, telling him that you know we should make petrol bombs, store them in a safe place....and if need be, we’ll use them. We didn’t actually plan much more than that, we just thought about that because at that time petrol bombs had been used in Southall, a pub had just been burnt down, you know we didn’t really have much else, you know we really did believe that if the skinheads came, it would be a pretty nasty battle and we were not going to let them get through.
Nothing did happen in a sense that the fascists didn’t attack Bradford.
... And then decision was taken that since no attack has taken place we would actually destroy the manufactured Molotov cocktails and as far as I was aware that was to be done and carried out and that was the end of the matter really. It was and I don’t actually remember the day, I think it was about three weeks later, I got a phone call to say that comrades had been arrested.
I was the only one that was there that didn’t get charged. And I don’t know whether they made a decision because when they picked me up, you know, in my shalwar kameez, I was fasting as well, they tried to offer me tea and coffee, but I said “I’m fasting”. [LAUGHS] you know, so I don’t know whether they thought, “No, this isn’t going to go with…”. You know, because at least they could call the twelve of them sort of ‘yobbos’ or ‘fanatics’ or whatever but having a girl, a nineteen year old girl there as well was… [LAUGHS].
We held a meeting, we, you know, various people came together, in terms of the Black community, and the Asian community, and members from the sort of white left, and I sort of seemed to recall, er, that one of our members, actually, you know, parents, owned the Arcadian Cinema, which was at the top of Inglebury Road at the time, and there was a huge meeting, it was absolutely amazing how many people turned up in that meeting, and basically agreed that we should have a campaign, to support the Bradford Twelve,
The important thing for me, really, was that, you know, here was a group of people that wanted to defend the city against any sort of threat of extreme right-wing groups coming into the city, and they had prepared some petrol bombs, which they didn’t use, nothing really happened in Bradford, and, you know, I believe that self-defence is no offence, which was what the campaign, - which was the campaign slogan, and which was basically how they won the campaign. But I think that the important thing for me was that the support was there for the Bradford Twelve, you know, the continuous picketing of the prison and at the hearing, and the sort of mobilisation of people sort of going to those pickets
I became involved with the Bradford Twelve defendants, in particular two of them, because I knew them already, because we had worked together in a campaign and legally on another case, that of Anwar Ditta, who was separated wrongfully by the Home Office from her children in Pakistan
.... then all of a sudden they end up as defendants charged with conspiracy offences, very, very serious. Conspiracy to make explosive substances, to endanger life etc., which would have carried life imprisonment if they’d been convicted,
.... Now the marvellous thing about the case was the support that it engendered from every section of the Bradford Asian community and indeed the Black community. In terms of age group, I remember going to one very, very early meeting when, all the defendants, including Tariq and Tarlochan were locked up in Armley prison, and there were Sikhs in their seventies and eighties and elderly Muslim parents, a whole range of support saying, in a sense, these are our children, support them, defend them, and that’s something that over the years I have never quite seen again.
The fact that there was a campaign affected the way that prisoners related to us, affected the way that prison officers related to us.
The pickets were organised by various groups, you know, that came together and there was quite a lot of people that, sort of, that supported the pickets outside the courts or the demonstrations outside the courts and things like that, so you know, there was, there was always, - I think what we’d done, and I can’t remember this for sure, but what we used to do is have rotas so that people could attend, and to ensure that there was, you know, a certain number of people that were attending. It wasn’t always that, that there was masses of people there, but the important thing was keeping the campaign going, and ensuring that there were people there at some point during those, sort of, during the hearings at the time.
People were shocked because of the scale of the charges, ... you know, this was really an attack on a community, .... and I think that’s why people came in those large numbers, ....
They represented a kind of unique development, which was an organised collective response, ..... People you knew were your friends, you know, who had obvious vulnerabilities had been placed in this position, I mean that’s how we saw it. And then soon after we learned that Tariq wanted it to be the broadest based possible campaign, which we thought was very good you know,
My family, my mother was absolutely gutted, I mean she went through terrible phases, terrible, but my father’s been very strong. He’s always maintained everything will be okay ... Father and mother they kind of, in their own way they were religious, they’re
... a lot of moral support was given to my mother during the campaign because everybody used to go to see her. You know she, I remember she used to literally burst out in tears in front of everybody and she used to say, well thanks for giving me that support because without that I think she would have been even more demoralised. But that helped her come to terms with it, with the fact everybody used to say, well whatever he’s done its okay, right he did it for everybody.
The most important area where I remember the trial, you know of the campaign, are the big demonstrations in our support. It was the daily ones outside the court room. See if we didn’t have a campaign, I believe the barristers played up to the campaign, it became very important to the legal team. Because we had a campaign, we became united inside, we weren’t cutting each others’ throats up just trying to get out on whichever technicality each one could. And also the campaign gave certainly, gave me the courage, to say well all right, you know, if I got to go down, I’m going to go down in my own words. I’m going to fight the case and I haven’t committed the crime. I’m not a criminal.
We had a little team....we went through a lot of stuff in the library, we went through newspaper reports and TNA....went to London and did the stuff there....
Because it was ‘Self Defence was no Offence’ ...we obviously had to show that they were justified in terms of the extent of the racist attacks, and it was not just Bradford, it was West Yorkshire and as I say with the back up of nationally,.. by saying look...how can anyone deny that things like that were happening in Bradford, when the government put out a report saying that 81,000 Asian people are attacked every year.
One of the issues in terms of the relationship between the legal defence and the campaign,
....they were not told specifically what the defence was going to be, and so they, they had to run a campaign as best they could without that actual knowledge, now I know that this was difficult for them but the thing was that the police and the prosecution believed until the very beginning of the case that the defence was going to be based on denial of any involvement in any activity to do with the making of petrol bombs,
... the actual defence being, ‘yes we did this, yes we were proud to do it, we believe we had to do it, it was a defence of necessity, and when the National Front never came to Bradford, fine, we never had to use these preparations that we had got together
... that element of surprise I think was tremendously important because the defendants then just took the courtroom by storm really, and the jury listened very, very, very carefully,
Yes we actually won the trial but the real victory was that the Black communities actually demonstrated that they had a right to defend themselves. And I guess that was taken up by other parts of the country as well. Sadly I think that no longer is the case. I think we’ve moved to a new era, a new way of doing, a new level of oppression I think as well. But the principle I think still exists; it’s still there.