Community leaders and local politicians in the British city of Leicester have called for an immediate end to “provocation and violence” following weeks of unrest following a cricket match between India and Pakistan late last month.
Leaders of Hindu and Muslim communities gathered on the steps of a mosque on Tuesday morning.
Pradip Gajjar, the president of the city’s Iskcon Leicester Hindu Temple, read a joint statement saying they were “sad and heartbroken to see the eruption of tension and violence”.
“Physical assaults on innocent individuals and unwarranted damage to property are not part of a decent society and not even part of our faith,” he added, according to a video posted by local Leicester Mercury newspaper.
Jonathan Ashworth, an opposition Labor MP in Leicester, condemned “shocking scenes of unacceptable violence”, in an interview with Times Radio.
The politician tweeted Monday that everyone in the city is “united in calling for calm, peace and harmony”.
Muslim Hindu Unity Declaration by Temple President, Pradyumna Das, outside Asfordby St Mosque.
“#Leicester has no place for any foreign extremist ideology that causes division. Our message to anyone who sows disharmony between us is clear: ‘we will not let you succeed’.” pic.twitter.com/qhYY7bqzff
— ISKCON Leicester (@IskconLeicester) September 20, 2022
Dozens of people have been arrested in the wake of the violence in England’s most multicultural city that made headlines in India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.
What caused the outbreak of violence?
So what triggered the outbreak of unprecedented violence in Leicester, where Hindus and Muslims have lived peacefully for decades?
Violent street clashes between some members of the Hindu and Muslim communities erupted after India defeated arch-rival Pakistan in an Asian Cup match in Dubai on August 28.
After the match, a large crowd went to Melton Road in Leicester, some waving Indian flags, to celebrate India’s victory over its nemesis Pakistan. According to videos, some in the crowd appeared to be chanting “Pakistan Murdabad” (death to Pakistan) shared on social media.
Police in Leicester reported a “series of incidents” in various parts of the city the following week.
On Saturday night, a crowd of about 200 Hindu men marched into the city, shouting – “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram) – a rallying cry for far-right Hindus in India. Soon, Muslims took to the streets, leading to clashes.
The disturbances continued on Sunday with videos posted to local media showing large groups of youths in masks and balaclavas fighting in the streets.
A Hindu temple was vandalized last weekend when a group of Muslim men protested in response to Saturday’s unplanned march intimidating Muslim residents and shop owners.
Some members of the UK’s Asian community say the unrest may be related to the rise of Hindu nationalism in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under which minorities, especially Muslims, have faced increasing attacks since 2014, is actively cooperating with the Hindu diaspora community.
‘We do not tolerate violence’
Police in Leicester said at least 47 people have been arrested. “The impact this condition is having on our local communities is unacceptable,” Leicestershire Police said Monday.
“We will not tolerate violence, disorder or intimidation in Leicester and we will continue to call for calm and dialogue. Our police operations and investigations continue with accuracy and on a large scale.”
Police said those arrested were men, mostly in their teens and in their twenties, and charged with possession of offensive weapons or firearms, violent disorder and threatening to kill.
Police have been given additional powers to stop and search people in certain areas and to return minors to their homes. They have urged “spreading speculation on social media”.
The city’s mayor blames disinformation on social media for the escalation of violence.
Community leaders are shocked by the violence in a city known for its communal friendship. Hindus and Muslims make up a significant portion of the city’s population.
“What we have seen on the street is very alarming,” Suleman Nagdi of the Federation of Muslim Organizations told the BBC.
Sanjiv Patel of the Hindu community also expressed his shock.
“We have lived in harmony in the city for decades, but in recent weeks it has become clear that there are things that need to be discussed at the table to sort out what people are not happy about,” said Patel, who represents the Hindu and Jain temples. . in Leicester, was quoted by the BBC.
‘A balanced view’
Dharmesh Lakhani, another Hindu community leader, said the desecration of the temple was “unacceptable”.
“I am really proud to say that on that day when the flag was removed, an imam was standing outside. He said I am outside the mandir . stand [temple]to make sure nothing happens,” Lakhani said through the Guardian.
India’s High Commission on Monday issued a statement condemning the “destruction of buildings and symbols of the Hindu religion”.
“We have vigorously raised this matter with the British authorities and have immediately sought action against those involved in these attacks.”
But Britain’s Muslim Council, the UK’s largest umbrella body for Muslim-led organizations, criticized the Indian High Commission for its selective condemnation.
“While it is correct that we condemn the desecration of Hindu symbols, you must represent all Indians and also condemn the deliberate attack, intimidation and assault of Muslims and Sikhs,” Zara Mohammed, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, wrote in a letter to the Indian High Commission.
“There is a clear reluctance to call out these groups that instigated this crime and their political ideology; which they seem to be trying to import from India.
“British Indian communities expect a balanced view from the Indian High Commission, representing the entire diaspora, that can help heal divisions locally.”