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Smethwick temple in Birmingham faces assault even as calm returns to Leicester 

Mobs surround the Hindu temple in Smethwick (Photo: Screen grab/Twitter)

After nearly three weeks of hate incidents and violence that rocked Leicester, community leaders from the Muslim and Hindu groups issued a joint statement appealing for harmony.

Reading out the statement, one of the leaders said: “We, the family of Leicester, stand in front of you not only as Hindus and Muslims but as brothers and sisters” focusing on the fact that there is no space for extremist ideologies. He added that the two faiths have lived harmoniously in Leicester for over half a century.

Even as action by the Leicestershire Police brought the situation under control in Leicester with 47 arrests, mobs began surrounding a Hindu temple in Smethwick. Videos on social media showed a group of Muslim youth marching towards Durga Bhawan Hindu Centre in Smethwick, about six kms west of Birmingham. The police too reached the temple even as the crowd raised slogans of ‘Allahu Akbar’.

The mob threw bottles and crackers inside the temple in a bid to intimidate the temple officials. Some tried to enter the temple by scaling the boundary fence. They were protesting a cancelled-visit by Sadhvi Ritambhara. The latest aggravation has sparked fears of Leicester-like violence taking place in Birmingham, the third-largest city in the UK after London and Manchester.

Violence in Leicester, located nearly 180 kms north-east of British capital London saw a Hindu temple being attacked and dozens of cars vandalised. Nearly 16 police officers were injured as groups of youth launched attacks over social media posts which were found to be fake and provocative by the police.

The police arrested Adam Yusuf, 21, for possessing a knife; Amos Noronha, 20, was jailed for 10 months for possessing an offensive weapon while Lukman Patel, 31, continues to be held by the police for “racially aggravated harassment/alarm/distress”.

Many people hailing from Birmingham—about 75 kms away, have been arrested in Leicester for stoking violence.

The BBC reported Leicestershire Police’s temporary chief constable, Rob Nixon, as saying that the social media had played a “huge role” in fanning the flames. “There are significant things on there which are false,” he said, citing assaults of people and attacks on religious establishments as examples. “My plea is that please, if people are seeing information on social media, if they can’t validate it, please don’t circulate it”, the BBC quoted Nixon.

The police is in the process of identifying more people from video footage who were found indulging in attacks. Nixon said that the police is likely to arrest people for several weeks if not months as it takes out “proactive patrols” in the violence-affected city.

The communal tension is likely to spread to other British cities as a pro-Muslim group has given a call to hold a protest outside the Indian High Commission in London on Thursday.

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