Community leaders and local politicians in the English city of Leicester have called for an immediate end to “provocations and violence” following weeks of unrest that erupted following a cricket match between India and Pakistan at the end of last month.
Leaders of the Hindu and Muslim communities gathered Tuesday morning on the steps of a mosque.
Pradip Gajjar, president of the city’s Iskcon Leicester Hindu temple, read a joint statement saying they were “deeply saddened and heartbroken to witness an explosion of tension and violence”.
“Material attacks against innocent individuals and unwarranted damage to property are not part of a decent society and really are not part of our faith, ‘ he added, according to a video posted by the local Leicester Mercury newspaper.
Jonathan Ashworth, an opposition Labor MP in Leicester, condemned the “shocking scenes of unacceptable incidents of violence”, in an interview with Times Radio.
The politician tweeted on Monday that all in the city “united in calling for calm, peace and harmony”.
Declaration of Muslim-Hindu Unity by the President of the Temple, Pradyumna Das, outside Asfordby St.
– ISKCON Leicester (@IskconLeicester) September 20, 2022
Dozens of people were arrested after the most violence multicultural The British city has appeared in headlines in India, Pakistan and the UK.
What sparked the violence?
So what caused the unprecedented outbreak of violence in Leicester, where Hindus and Muslims have lived peacefully for decades?
Violent street clashes between some members of the Hindu and Muslim communities broke out after India beat rivals Pakistan in an Asian Cup match in Dubai on August 28.
After the game, a crowd took to Melton Road in Leicester, some of them waving Indian flags, to celebrate India’s victory over arch-enemy Pakistan. Some in the crowd appeared to have chanted “Pakistan Murdabad” (death to Pakistan), according to the video shared on social networks.
Police in Leicester reported a series of “incidents” in different parts of the city over the following week.
On Saturday night, a crowd of about 200 Hindu men marched through the city, with some shouting – “Jai Shri Ram” (Lord Ram) – a cry of war for those far-right Hindus in India. Soon after, Muslims poured into the street leading to a scuffle.
The disturbances continued into Sunday with videos posted in local media showing large groups of masked and balaclav-wearing youths fighting in the streets.
A Hindu temple was vandalized over the weekend when a group of Muslim men protested in response to an unplanned march on Saturday in which Muslim residents and shop owners were threatened.
Some members of the Asian community in the UK suggested that the unrest could be linked 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, has been active in the community. overseas Hindus.
‘We will not tolerate violence’
Leicester police say at least 47 people have been arrested. “The impact this disorder has on our local community is unacceptable,” Leicestershire police said on Monday.
“We will not tolerate violence, disorder or intimidation in Leicester and we continue to call for calm and dialogue. Our police operations and investigations continue with rigor and scale. “
Police say those arrested are men, mostly in their teens and 20s, and face charges such as possession of an assault weapon or firearm, violent disorder and intimidation. killing.
Police have added powers to stop and search anyone in certain areas and return minors to their homes. They have urged against “speculation spreading on social media”.
The mayor of the city has blamed misinformation on social media about the escalation of violence.
Community leaders are shocked by the violence in a city known for its community friendliness. Hindus and Muslims make up a sizable portion of the city’s population.
“What we see on the street is very alarming,” Suleman Nagdi of the Federation of Muslim Organizations is quoted as saying by the BBC.
Sanjiv Patel from the Hindu community also expressed shock.
“We have lived in harmony in the city for decades but over the past few weeks it has become clear that there are things that need to be discussed around the table to figure out what people are not happy about,” said Patel, who represent Hindu and Jain temples. in Leicester, was quoted by the BBC.
‘A balanced look’
Dharmesh Lakhani, another Hindu community leader, said insulting the temple was “unacceptable”.
“I am really proud to say that on that day, when the flag was removed, there was a leader outside. He said I was standing outside the mandir [temple]make sure that nothing happens,” Lakhani is quoted as saying by the Guardian.
The High Commission of India released a statement on Monday condemning “the act of vandalizing the facilities and symbols of the Hindu religion”.
“We have vigorously addressed this matter with UK authorities and have sought immediate action against those involved in these attacks.”
But the Muslim Council of Britain, the UK’s largest umbrella body for Muslim-led organisations, criticized the High Commission of India for selective condemnation.
“While we rightly condemn insulting Hindu symbols, you must represent all Indians and also condemn deliberate targeting, intimidation and instances of assault. Muslims and Sikhs”, Zara Mohammed, secretary general of the British Muslim Council, Written in a letter to the High Commissioner of India.
“Clearly there is a reluctance to call out the groups that have instigated this hooliganism and their political ideology; which they seem to be trying to import from India.
“Indian communities in the UK expect a balanced view from the High Commission of India, which represents all diaspora communities, which can help heal divisions locally.”