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Crowd policing close-up

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Alison Mitchell | 14:49 UK time, Friday, 25 February 2011

It's been an extraordinary couple of days since I arrived in Bangalore with the England team.

Thursday morning began with a pleasant interview with batsman Ravi Bopara in the serene garden of the opulent team hotel. Fifteen minutes later I was on the side of a clogged road outside the Chinaswammy Stadium, looking across six chaotic lanes of cars, tuk tuks, vans and buses, at an astonishing line of men all waiting to buy tickets to see India take on England in the World Cup.
I negotiated the traffic to cross the road and began speaking to the people in the queue, which snaked around the perimeter of the stadium. Some had been waiting in line since 4am; those nearer the front of the queue had pitched up the night before.

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This was nothing new, as I've seen queues outside cricket grounds before in India that stretch as far as the eye can see, notably in Indore when England toured in 2008. I've even read newspaper reports of "lathi charges" but as a mere cricket reporter it was altogether different seeing it first hand.
The police presence got heavier the closer I got to the ticket booths, and they used their long bamboo sticks (lathi) to beat back anyone who fell out of line. Rumours were flying of serious injuries earlier in the day when the booths first opened at 830am, causing a crush as the fans surged forward.

As I watched, the queue swelled on the pavement and people were six or seven deep, jammed up against the concrete perimeter wall of the stadium, some falling off the pavement into the busy road.

It was a chaotic scene, with police wielding their sticks and laying several blows to keep the crowd under control, but they also seemed to be plucking people out of the line fairly indiscriminately to give them a whack.

Those people may have been queue-jumpers, it was impossible to know. However there was certainly more than one person who claimed he had queued diligently since the early hours, only to feel the force of a bamboo cane across his forearm and the chance of a ticket gone.
At a bizarre media conference on Friday morning, we heard from Bangalore's police commissioner, Shankar Bidri, who defended the actions of his force. Questions from English journalists about the aggressive tactics used were met with a degree of mirth from both the commissioner and many local journalists, as he explained that this is simply what happens in India.
"People were falling over each other and there was a likelihood of stampede, therefore our people intervened. This is nothing new," he said.

"The Indian situations and the Indian dimensions are very different. It's difficult for the people who have lived in Europe and in America to understand."

Cue sniggers from the floor, as well as from police officers flanking Mr Bidri at the top table.
Policing methods are one of the numerous cultural differences found in India, but the images that were played on TV in the UK and beyond were met with concern, and it was unnerving to be amongst it, even though I was aware that this sort of policing is standard across India.
The bigger story for the Indian newspapers is now the probability of tickets being sold on the black market due to demand far outstripping the supply of only 7,000 tickets made available at the Bangalore ticket booths. The commissioner robustly exclaimed that anyone caught at the gate with a fake or duplicate ticket would be sent to prison "for seven years!"
Policing at the stadium is being stepped up for the India-England game, but again, this is said to be nothing new, all normal procedure for a big India match. There will be 3,000 security personnel in total on match day: 2,000 policemen, 700 traffic officers and 300 men looking after the players' safety.
If you're coming to the game to support either country, the message is to get there early. Gates open at 1030am for England's most eagerly awaited match of the group stage.


  • Comment number 1.

    Makes me wonder how India as a nation gets by without the European Human Rights act ;)

  • Comment number 2.

    The fact that no one in India is overly suprised or shocked by these events tells a stroy in itself. This is seen as run-of-the-mill police work and having been to India and having several Indian friends in England, I can confirm that due to such crowded cities, events of this nature will mean that the relatively small police forces to have to be "pro-active" when dealing with crowds.
    As seen in many religious festivals as well over the years, deaths from stampedes are an all to common occurrence and crowds sometimes have to be dealt with in ways that are completely alien to us in Europe to avoid fatalities.

  • Comment number 3.

    Indian police bows to the rich and powerful and treat ordinary citizens with no respect, instead of using their brain they use sticks and that’s what they have proved to the rest of the world.

  • Comment number 4.

    @Tatloaf ha..ha....European Human Rights Act for India? good joke..

  • Comment number 5.

    Its funny that....have you all forgotten the student riots here in the UK, are the police here any different?? riot shield etc, water hoses, heavier police presence, there have been hundreds of injuries at events through out the UK, even innocent people just standing have been hit, why do you think India should receive bad press?

    This is a big event to all the host nations, just seems to me you like to highlight 'bad' issues such as this then focus on the positives, of what this means to the people and how it can build the nations involved.

  • Comment number 6.

    Re 5

    "have you all forgotten the student riots here in the UK, are the police here any different??"

    The difference would be student 'riots' as opposed to a lot of peaceful people waiting in line to buy tickets. Surely you can't compare the two events as the same? One was rioting, one was people in line.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good blog: preparing the ground for a excuse after an English defeat on Sunday....
    "We were disturbed by the scenes outside and could not concentrate on cricket.."
    Focus on the cricket, leave the policing to the Indian police.

  • Comment number 8.

    Re 6
    How can you compare rioters (you called them "student riots"), trashing shops and setting fir to things - and throwing fire extinguishers of roofs - with cricket fans queueing for tickets?
    Can anyone IMAGINE what would happen if the British police thrashed cricket fans with sticks for jumping a queue? Do us all a favour mate...

  • Comment number 9.

    So are you saying what the Indian police did should be ignored? I don't see how the BBC can win because if they don't cover it (in addition to the positive coverage they are giving) then they would probably be accused of unbalanced coverage. If they do cover it, then someone like you comes along and accuses them of being totally negative and only wanting to talk about negative things?

    You're obviously not averse to talking about trouble in the UK - does that mean we should complain about you only wanting to be negative about the UK?

    You shouldn't be so afraid about articles that don't paint an inaccurate picture of your country, in the same way as we shouldn't in the UK. Pretending something isn't happening doesn't mean it isn't!

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    One have to understand its a nation of 1.1 billion and not 1 million,given the importance of the tournament these things will happen and its unfortunate.

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't have personal experience of being beaten with a bamboo stick, or a police baton for that matter - do you?

    You make it sound like being beaten with a bamboo stick is something akin to a pillow fight! There is more than one way to keep people under control under crowding situations, and of course there are cultural differences across the world in how such situations are dealt with.

    However, I'm not sure that saying such things are done in what might be called a more extreme fashion in other parts of the world diminishes how it would feel to have been one of those queuing up in India for the India/England tickets.

  • Comment number 13.

    Nah, never been beaten up by the police I aint that stupid to hang around or to go to a area where their is likelyhood of getting beat up.

    "There is more than one way to keep people under control under crowding situations" sure and they are all so successful (not) I mean the proof is the in pudding as people in Britain normally say. I mean look at success of the student protests the Police was extremely brilliant at controlling them werent they I dont remember any fire extinguishers with wings flying around that was just a nasty rumour spread by the police wasnt it. Get real dude.

  • Comment number 14.

    Correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm not), but the people queuing for tickets for a World Cup cricket match weren't there to protest about student fees or multinational companies. Are you suggesting that if an idiot pushes in the queue at your local supermarket, that you have the duty manager there beating them with a stick till they go to the back of the line?

    I think you need to get real mate.

  • Comment number 15.

    Remember G20 protest in london ? how a man was killed by force ?

    Where do you live ?

  • Comment number 16.

    You should watch how police arrest people who are going for saturday night drink in UK .It is pretty shocking.Anybody wearing hoody gets arrested .

  • Comment number 17.

    As per usual, this is degenerating into how bad the UK is, blah, blah, blah, instead of it being about what happened when people queued up to buy a ticket to watch a cricket match.

    #16 you are making wild generalisations, it's absurd and shouldn't be part of a proper debate.

  • Comment number 18.

    #7 so a cricket journalist shouldn't comment on something she witnessed that is in context regarding the match on Sunday? Why shouldn't the BBC provide balanced coverage on this issue, or do you believe it should be kept hidden?

    There is nothing remotely about making excuses should India beat England. It just comes across as childish on your part. Cricket is meant to be about sporting behaviour and treating your opponent with respect, not coming out with the sort of thing you've posted on here.

  • Comment number 19.

    oh well police should follow G20 methods then .....

  • Comment number 20.

    #19 evidently you're what is called a troll then... I'm not going to waste anymore time talking about the issue raised in the blog by Alison Mitchell as you evidently don't want to talk about that.

  • Comment number 21.

    It brings back memories from the 1996 World Cup, where I waited 12 odd hours to get my Ind vs. Pak ticket and was on the receiving end of one of the lathi blows. I can assure you they sting badly and the indentation sticks with you for a week. On one hand I can empathize with the cops for doing it to maintain law and order (as they are largely outnumbered). I feel it is unnecessary to resort to such tactics to terrorize law abiding citizens who have spent numerous hours diligently waiting for a ticket. They need to be better trained to deal with a huge line by being proactive.
    I do not agree with Commissioners comment about distinguishing the way crowds behave in the west and in India. It’s insulting in a way, as it means Indians are not as civilized or mature to behave in a disciplined manner as they do in the west. It’s high time to stop using the excuse “This is India”
    I believe the solution to this is to have a streamlined process where the first 7000 customers are given waiting numbers and the rest have to be sent home. Similar to the DMV process in the United States, it’s of no use to have 50,000 odd customers spend 12 or more hours waiting in a line for non-existent tickets. It just adds to their frustration and chaos.

  • Comment number 22.

    It always amuses anyone when a non-native visits a new country and writes a blog about his/her own experiences. Usually they tend to have lot of surprises (pleasant or unpleasant) interspersed with some of their own experiences in their own country. This is basically called comparative studies. But if done without proper perspective, it usually degenerates to a presentation of "it is awful here" or "it is much better here". There may definitely be some elements of truth presented in such studies but they get clouded with the first reactions which tend to be irrational. I can easily say that because I grew up in India and then I've been staying in the USA for the last 10 years.

    The "cultural shocks" that I felt when I first came to USA are still memorable. The public show of emotions which is a taboo in India made me feel jittery. So much so that when I walking in Manhattan, NYC I was given a pamphlet that was calling people to visit some questionable places. But I was not a BBC blogger (or someone like that) so that I could paint a picture of what USA was all about to the world. You must remember the background that I grew up with and what a shock it was to me to see such situations in USA. But now having lived in USA for 10 years and "getting used" to such situations, I no longer feel the same. I could now see what this society is all about and why it is OK to be that way. At the same time, I still can agree why some other societies have some other cultural values which may not be acceptable elsewhere. So my opinion is unless someone stays in a country for a while to know how/what the situations are and the responsive mechanisms developed in that society to curb/promote those situations, it is futile to write a blog consisting of just initial cultural shocks.
    Another example is in India male friends hold hands with each other or sometimes put arms around each other in public places -- it is purely platonic nothing more than that. In USA when I first did the same with my cousin (male), he quickly moved away saying that I should not be hugging or holding hands of males in USA as it is thought to be something else. Again I was taught that it is just a different evolution path that the society in each culture takes and we must be receptive to see that.

    In India crowd management is not easy. Everyone in the West is thinking here that the crowd was innocently standing and there was no provocation for the police to cane them. Is that so? Do you think Indian police are some trigger happy people who like to hit others? I've stood in queues for some 18 hours in India sometimes. Believe me, in such a state normal human behavior from both the fans and the police is not possible. Some fans will try to jump the queue, or push people in front (note that in India people stick to each other in queue unlike in the West). Some people begin to form a different queue parallel to the existing one. Some fans will be irritated and then begin arguments with others and worse may even come to blows. Usually the police warnings are ignored and that is why the police have to resort to some "action". Caning is one of them. Now by all this I'm not justifying any behavior (neither the fans nor police). I'm just explaining what the situation is without being judgmental. I pray you all do the same.

    I still remember after having stayed in US for few years when I visited India and was standing in a queue, I was suddenly shocked when I heard one person who had some difficulty in using a public kiosk (like railway ticket machine), replying to another person who politely offered to help him: "Do you think you know better than I do?" In USA, I would have never thought of someone saying that way when offered to help. But then I was bemused that why I actually was surprised - is not that normal here. This is how India was and will be. We must learn to get on with it just like I did when I was in USA initially.

  • Comment number 23.

    the use of horses charging at protestors?

    every country has these situations and examples, if the police had not been proactive and more reactive, like the MET, then i'm sure there would have been fatalities with a stampede

    we should in fact be praising the police for their handling of the situation

    the people that should be blamed are icc, bcci and banglore association for the pathetic allocation for locals, what do u expect if you only give 7k if that to locals, more than 20k has gone to corporates and sponsors,
    im sure even england got 4k tickets minimum, now what sort of home advantage is that?

    you wonder why IPL is a success? well the normal man on the street is able to watch the odd ipl game if he wants to, they do not feel excluded from ipl, but it seems only way to interact with this world cup is watching it at home, where's the fun in that if you live in banglore,

    really this game should have been played at eden gardens and they should have made this possible by changing the schedule and moving this game to a week later

    P.S. no one is saying dont highlight this police action, but then it has to be placed in the context of cultural differences and looking a bit closer to home

  • Comment number 24.

    also i agree with #22 that how do we know if crowd wasn't being provocative, having been in indian crowds, i can hazard a guess that almost 75% of the time there are trouble makers who do not know how to Q

    that's something the british didn't leave behind in india, like the kohinoor they took their Qing etiquette

  • Comment number 25.

    I agree with #5 sidhu01

  • Comment number 26.

    Bound to have problems like this in a third world country.

    India will not be permitted to host a major world competition after the CWG and the CWC. They just aren't capable yet.

  • Comment number 27.

    @26 - wombletiltheend - sure, they have different issues but as I recall many people had similar criticisms about security in South Africa before hosting the FIFA world cup. Sporting events are an international thing and there has to be some tolerance for diversity in the environment - sure the cues may be ordering when lining up for tickets in Stratford for the Olympics but when in England do as the English and when in India...

    In any case, judging by England's performance against Ireland today, I think they're probably going to need policing like that when they return to England if the British public have anything to say about it!

  • Comment number 28.

    What is the police to do when the behavior of these people is savage like? American & British values cannot be applied to these poor third world countries. The police force is corrupt and the crowd is not civil. This is part of life in India!

  • Comment number 29.

    Judging by some of the comments above, the Cricket World Cup and other major sporting events should only be held in first world countries - what rubbish. The world is a diverse place and so what if everyone doesn't conform to the developed world's idea of "order", queues etc.

    If you look at the success of the commonwealth games in spite of all the negative publicity and the FIFA world cup in South Africa last year, it's clear that the so called developing nations can manage just fine.. if foreign spectators can't hack it, then best they wait for the tournament to return to their own countries before going to watch matches live - whiners will certainly not be missed in Asia in 2011.

  • Comment number 30.

    Alison, Thankyou for this article. It is always interesting to learn of a foreigner's perspective.
    I am not surprised at the dismissive attitude of the police commissioner at all! This is the usual attitude of the police in India towards the public; perhaps that is the way they are trained. I have experienced it myself. I wish they would be trained to treat the public with respect, rather than as delinquents.
    And I don't think they can prevent a stampede using "lathis"! Modern crowd control does not exist in India, and hence the disturbingly frequent stampedes at festivals, etc. I hope things change soon.
    The BBC's coverage is excellent, balanced, and humorous, and not at all negative. The people who complain of it being negative I think are insecure and cannot stand criticism.

  • Comment number 31.

    Ahh... all part of the fun in India! Rajiv0275 (#30) - you're right - there is no concept of crowd control - modern or otherwise - in India (unless of course there is a military curfew!)

    It's part of the diversity of the world and it's disappointing to see so many negative comments here about such tournaments being held in these countries. If the whole world were as sterile as some European countries, it would make for much less interesting viewing when it comes to sports.

  • Comment number 32.

    Indians are very familiar with the crowd control measures that the british used , google jalianwala bagh.
    Its nice to see that the Bbc has to really scrape the bottom of the barrel to get sensational news from India or invent news as in the case of CWG.


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