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Violence in UK’s Leicester—interfaith organisations found wanting in defusing tension

Large-scale disorder takes place in Leicester (Photo: Facebook.com/leicspolice)

Simmering communal tensions in Leicester flared over the weekend as mobs attacked a Hindu temple and reportedly injured 16 police officers. The mob tore down a Hindu flag in front of the police.

The police arrested 47 men to prevent further violence. One person was arrested for carrying a blade. The police called for reinforcements from outside and imposed “Stop search powers”. The police also met community leaders and issued calls to counter inaccurate information.

The Leicestershire Police Federation tweeted: “Sixteen brave Leicestershire Police colleagues were injured last night policing disorder… utterly despicable. Our Chair Adam Commons @LeicsFedChair comments on the disgraceful scenes we sadly witnessed. We wish all injured colleagues well”.

The Leicester police said that violence erupted after groups of men took out an unplanned protest on Saturday and again on Sunday. Reports say that people were “brought in” from outside Leicester to participate in the protests.

The Indian high Commission also took note of the violence taking place against the Hindus in east Leicester and said that it has taken up the matter with the British authorities.

Rumours on social media started circulating on Saturday that a mosque was being attacked. The police, which was already on ground in large numbers due to sporadic violence, however, found it to be untrue.

Noted Hindu scholar and yogacharya, Satish Kumar Sharma, speaking with India Narrative expressed dismay over the role of the police. Sharma said: “The police role is not to protect rioters whilst they attack a Hindu Temple and desecrate and burn the Aum-bearing religious flags. They should have intervened and arrested the individuals responsible immediately”.

Sharma appealed to the new British Home Secretary Suella Braverman to “urgently address this concern, otherwise it is reasonable to assume that Hindus, like other targeted minorities, are no longer safe in this country”. He added that the police officers stood as spectators while Hinduphobic hate crimes occurred in front of them.

After speaking with a number of people based in the UK India Narrative pieced together the sequence of events.

Tension between the Muslim and Hindu communities in Leicester ignited on August 28 after India won a cricket match against Pakistan in Dubai. Tensions further rose after a Hindu family, which was celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi in their home, and had invited guests, was attacked by Muslim youth. Eggs were thrown into the house where the deities were kept.

The escalation of violence in Leicester came about around the same time as the stabbing of two policemen – one man and a woman, in London. This happened even as the UK was mourning the death of their Queen.

A London-based Indian entrepreneur told India Narrative: “Muslims and Hindus have lived peacefully in the UK for decades but in the last decade tensions have arisen… The demographics of certain cities in the UK are changing rapidly, which is a concern and interfaith organisations need to work on this. There is no need to inflame the situation presently”.

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