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UK: Hindu-Muslim Scuffles Lead to Heightened Communal Tension in UK’s Leicester

Friday 23 September 2022, by siawi3


Hindu-Muslim Scuffles Lead to Heightened Communal Tension in UK’s Leicester

The latest episode has led to Hindu, Jain and Muslim community leaders and police calling for calm.

Leicestershire Police. Photo: Video screengrab

The Wire Staff


New Delhi: Leicester city in the United Kingdom has seen an escalation of scuffles and communal tension leading to the arrest of two in an area which has a mixed population of Hindus and Muslims, British media outlets have reported. BBC has called it a “large-scale disaster.”

The disturbances first began after the India-Pakistan Asia Cup cricket match of August 28. The latest episode has led to community leaders and police calling for calm.

On Saturday, September 17, a group led a march chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ through east Leicester, a community leader named Rukhsana Hussain, told The Guardian. A woman who had witnessed Saturday’s disturbances was quoted by BBC as having said that there were “people wearing balaclavas or with masks over their faces, and with hoods pulled up.”

“They were throwing bottles and all sorts,” a local of Belgrave Road in the eastern part of Leicester, Majid Freeman, told The Guardian. “They were coming past our mosques, taunting the community and physically beating people up randomly,” he is additionally quoted as having said.

Freeman said that in response, young Muslims led a march. “‘We can’t trust the police, we’re going to defend our community ourselves’,” is what they thought, he said.

One Drishti Mae, who is described as a former chairperson of a national Hindu organisation, is quoted by the newspaper as having said that the recent unrest was unprecedented but that it was Hindus who were being targeted and harassed. She described Hindus as a “first-generation migrant community.”

The Guardian report notes that leaders of the Muslim community, Hindu and Jain temples, and community organisations in Leicester have all promised to work to get to the bottom of what caused the march on Saturday.

“We need calm – the disorder has to stop and it has to stop now. There are some very dissatisfied young men who have been causing havoc,” Suleman Nagdi, of the Leicester-based Federation of Muslim Organisations told BBC.

Leicestershire police has been releasing frequent tweets, the latest of which says the situation is now calm. Earlier, its temporary chief constable Rob Nixon had released a video message urging peace, noting that this was an “unusual occurrence” for such a culturally diverse place.

“We are aware of a video circulating showing a man pulling down a flag outside a religious building on Melton Road, Leicester,” police also noted, adding that the matter will be investigated.

One of the Guardian reporters Aina J. Khan later tweeted a long thread in which she essayed her experience reporting the story and the comments she received from men purportedly aligned with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

“The interview got heated when another man, an RSS member, accused me of bias when I shared concerns about yesterday’s impromptu marchers chanting “Jai Shri Ram,” a Hindu chant appropriated by extremists in India, that has now become synonymous with anti-Muslim hatred,” Khan wrote.

Eventually, she tweeted in the thread, she was accused of being “a member of the Taliban, an extremist, playing the victim card” and of not “scrutinising Pakistan’s treatment of its minorities and fixating on India’s treatment of its minorities, of ignoring how Muslims are raping everyone.”

Khan also tweeted a video showing her audio recording the three men seen loudly speaking to her on the above topics. Khan wrote in the thread that she was also filmed and that had she not been visibly Muslim she would not have been treated like this.

“There is no doubt these men were not representative of the Hindu community,” she added.



Following events in Leicester, South Asian solidarity is more important than ever

Photo: Hindu nationalists in Leicester

Sophia Purdy-Moore

22nd September 2022

On Saturday 18 September, busloads of Hindutva nationalists descended on Leicester to carry out violent attacks against members of the local community. Mainstream reports are framing the violence to be a case of local tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities. However, this was a targeted attack led by Hindu nationalists who were not local to the area. According to witnesses, those involved shouted Hindutva exclamations, targeted attacks against local Muslims, and damaged mosques in the area.

The violence on Saturday reflects the rise of Hindu nationalism in the UK. Rather than seeking short-sighted criminal justice responses to a global issue, we must unite in solidarity against Hindutva fascism.

Speaking to the false victimhood narrative espoused by Hindu nationalists, Majid Freeman (who witnessed events on Saturday) tweeted

The Guardian‘s northern community affairs correspondent Aina J. Khan shared

Hindutva violence

Indeed, “Jai Shri Ram” has been co-opted by Hindutva nationalists enacting vicious Islamphobic mob violence in India. The utterance of this phrase in Leicester reflects the success of attempts to export Hindu nationalism to the UK.

The Indian High Commission in the UK issued a press release, framing local retaliation carried out by a small number of community members to be “against the Indian Community” and Hindu religion. This framing of events is disingenuous, and feeds into false ‘both sides’ arguments. It ultimately seeks to legitimise the fascist ideology of Hindu nationalist paramilitary group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its political arm the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is led by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

As writer and activist Amrit Wilson has explained, the Hindu far-right RSS and BJP have a great deal of power and influence in Britain.

Reacting to the Labour Party’s criticism of Modi’s settler colonial agenda in Kashmir in 2019, Hindu nationalists launched a strident anti-Labour propaganda campaign in areas including Leicester, Harrow, and Brent. This campaign was based on claims that Labour’s commentary was anti-Indian and anti-Hindu.

Meanwhile, evidence suggests that UK spy agencies shared intelligence with the Indian authorities to help capture and detain Sikh human rights activist Jagtar Singh Johal in 2017.

The RSS and BJP also have a great deal of support from the British government. In 2020, Indian police used tear gas and water cannons against Indian farmers protesting Modi’s repressive farm laws. By 2021, an estimated 700 farmers had died while campaigning to overturn the laws. But in April 2022, then-prime minister Boris Johnson celebrated Britain’s partnership with the Indian government in the name of “global peace and security“. This reflects the extent to which the British state has legitimised Modi’s oppressive and deeply Islamophobic BJP government in India.

Policing is not the answer

On 19 September, Leicester Police shared that officers had arrested 47 people and sentenced one young person in relation to the events. Police have now increased their presence in East Leicester.

Reacting to calls for criminal justice responses to the violence in Leicester, writer Ilyas Nagdee said:

Amardeep S Dillon added:

Indeed, we can’t let what happened in Leicester legitimise the further encroachment of policing and surveillance of South Asian communities in Britain. In particular, South Asian Muslims are overpoliced and surveilled through state ‘War on Terror’ strategies such as the Islamophobic Prevent duty. And a recent report by the Institute of Race Relations revealed that citizenship-stripping powers introduced in 2002 have reduced South Asian British Muslims to a ‘second-class citizenship’.

Responses that depend on the criminal justice and immigration systems will only serve to further harm South Asian communities in general, and South Asian Muslims in particular. Instead, we need responses that foster accountability, healing, and community.

South Asian solidarity

The only logical response to the violence in Leicester is a united front against Hindu fascism. As writer Taj Ali shared:

In fact, Britain has a long, rich history of South Asian anti-racist and anti-fascist organising. In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, young British South Asian Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus collectively built strong self-defence and community empowerment movements in towns and cities across the UK. This legacy is present in the organisation of groups such as Black Lives Matter and Sikhs Against the English Defence League today.

Broad-based solidarity is the only way we can overcome ‘divide and rule’ politics. Recognising this, anti-imperialist and anti-racist group South Asia Solidarity has organised an emergency protest at 6pm on Thursday 22 September at the Indian High Commission:

Saturday’s events have made it abundantly clear that it’s time for us to take a firm stand against the rise of Hindu nationalism in the UK, and undermine attempts to stifle South Asian solidarity.