France In The Midst Of Yet Another Trouble

Scenes of major rioting have been witnessed in the French cities of Nanterre, Lille, Marseille, Paris and Lyons since the unfortunate killing of a 17 year old boy of Algerian origin Nahal M. The report suggested it was a cold-blooded shooting by French police authorities who tried to intercept the car Nahal was driving at a traffic stop. Many unverified video footages have been doing rounds in social media showing how police approached victim’s car with a gun pointed at him and shot while the victim allegedly tried to flee. Nahal belonged to the French minority community and has since been projected as symbol of oppression by the state. Riots that followed have mainly targeted schools, government buildings, street shops and vehicles on the road. While the French authorities appealed for calm, riots continued for the sixth consecutive day and has even spread to French overseas territories of Reunion Island and French Guiana.

French history reflects multiple occasions when riots have erupted in the country since 1979 when an Arab teenager was shot dead by a security guard. There have been atleast five such occasions in the 90’s and in last two decades there have been six more such major instances. Last one being in 2017 when French police was blamed for racial abuse during the custody of a person belonging to French minority. France is populated by a mix of decedents from across the world. The French laws restrain the state from collecting data on ethnicity.

However, certain indications suggest almost 15% of French population of about 7 crores have been of foreign origin. Out of this almost 10% of the current population is foreign born. There has been steady rise of the immigrants coming to France as their second home. As per data held by The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), French national statistics bureau, maximum migrants have been from Africa and Asia. As per another statistics agency’s Sylvie Le Minez one third of French population today has immigrations links. These figures exclude illegal or undocumented migrants, as France calls them living in the country which is estimated to be more than 4 lakhs.

The ethnic diversity, heady cocktail of religious minorities, illegal migrations and certain local policy decisions have been attributed towards the cyclic eruption of violence over the years in France. While France has been part of First World developed countries since the industrial revolution swept Europe, it has been found struggling in managing it’s demographic diversity. A number of observers have blamed French laws which they feel appears discriminatory and offensive to the sensitivities of minority communities. France has also seen multiple instances of high handedness from the law enforcing agencies. While to be fair to these law enforcement agencies they work under tremendous stress for securing the life and property of common citizens with continued challenge to uphold the ethics enshrined in their Law while dealing with highly volatile circumstance.

However, as it appears in the present case and also in some more instances of the past the clear dubious calls by individual officers on duty with questionable moral ethics has led to spread of wanton violence resulting in more avoidable losses of life and property. The situation as is unfolding today in France is undoubtedly grave since President Macron has to postpone his official trip to Germany. It also leaves some pressing questions about the approach governments in Europe have adopted of staying non-committal on European mishandling of human rights issues, policies surrounding immigrations and restrictions of religious practices especially of minorities. Unfortunate incidents such as these should act to remind local policy makers to address the sensibilities of the minorities as the right to dignified life is a universal need. The feeling of alienation only gets exponentially fuelled by signs of state high handedness. The time now is for everyone to act with senses and let the peace quickly prevail on the streets.

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