Why Hindus and Muslims are fighting on the streets of UK’s Leicester and who started it?
Trouble started in the city of Leicester after the 28 August India-Pakistan cricket match. The tension escalated over the weekend with the alleged vandalism of a temple. The Muslim community has accused a group of Hindu men of taking out an impromptu march and smashing glass bottles
The tension between India and Pakistan over a cricket game has now spilt out into the streets of the United Kingdom. The British media has reported unrest in the city of Leicester to northwest London, with the BBC calling it a “large-scale disaster”, after street clashes between mobs of Hindus and Muslims.
What’s going on in Leicester?
On Sunday, Leicester Police wrote on Twitter, “Parts of East Leicester experienced serious disorder yesterday evening (Saturday, 17 September) into this morning (Sunday) when large crowds formed after groups of young men began an unplanned protest.”
Our response to disorder in East Leicester pic.twitter.com/1alu5Q95er
— Leicestershire Police (@leicspolice) September 18, 2022
According to the police, two men have been arrested one on “suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder”, and the other on “suspicion of possession of a bladed article”. Calling for calm, it warned, “We will not tolerate violence or disorder in our city.”
What is the reason behind the unrest?
There has been rising tension in parts of Leicester since 28 August, when India and Pakistan played a match in the Asia Cup T20. India won that nail-biting game with two balls remaining.
After supporters of India gathered in Leicester’s Belgrave neighbourhood to celebrate the victory, violence broke out. It all started when a man’s T-shirt was torn off as others were seen punching him.
According to videos doing the round on social media, fans wearing a Team India jersey, walking on the road shouting “Pakistan Murbabad”. A police officer is seen arresting one person on the ground and a video shows a group beating up a man and ripping off his shirt.
What led to fresh violence?
Since the first instance of violence, Leicester has been on the edge.
The Hindu community says that it has been a victim of hate crime. A video posted on 18 September shows a temple being vandalised. According to Rashmi Sawant, a Hindu human rights activist, cars and other properties owned by the community were also destroyed.
Hindu Mandir Vandalised in Leicester by Muslim community fanatics. They have burt the religious flags and have been trying to keep Hindus hostage inside incluing little children. Cars and other Hindu owned properties have been toppled and vandalised too. pic.twitter.com/3OyC10ndeQ
— Rashmi Samant (@RashmiDVS) September 18, 2022
Drishti Mae, 31, a lifelong Leicester resident who used to chair a national Hindu organisation, told The Guardian, “It’s the Hindu community that’s being targeted, a first-generation migrant community.” She said that Hindu families were being harassed by some Muslims in the city.
On 17 September, a group of men were filmed marching through the city’s Green Lane Road area, where there are several Muslim-owned businesses and a Hindu temple, according to a report in The Guardian.
A community leader Rukhsana Hussain said that she heard several people chanting “Jai Shri Ram” from the streets. A video posted by Majid Freeman on Twitter accused “Hindu mobs throwing glass bottles at Muslims”.
Hindu mobs on Belgrave Road throwing glass bottles at the Muslims but narrowly missing police officers heads on numerous occasions. There is NOT a small minority of these Hindutva thugs. Theres hundreds of them. Will the Hindu community leaders continue defending them? #Leicester pic.twitter.com/WzXnY4AWVj
— Majid Freeman (@Majstar7) September 17, 2022
Freeman was on the street and he alleged that the Hindu mob was “coming past our mosques, taunting the community and physically beating people up randomly”, according to The Guardian report.
He said that the Muslims were responding to the impromptu march. “We can’t trust the police, we’re going to defend our community ourselves,” he said.
What are authorities saying about the temple attack?
The police said in a statement, “Several incidents of violence and damage have been reported to the police and are being investigated. We are aware of a video circulating showing a man pulling down a flag outside a religious building on Melton Road, Leicester.”
“This appears to have taken place while police officers were dealing with public disorder in the area. The incident will be investigated.”
According to officials, a significant police operation will remain in the area in the coming days.
Leicester East MP, Claudia Webbe made a similar appeal on Twitter on Saturday night: “Dear Leicester, this is a time for cool heads.”
“I implore everyone to go home. We can strengthen our dialogue to repair community relations. Your family will be worried for your safety, please accept the advice of the police who are trying to defuse and are calling for calm.”
This is a time for cool heads.
I implore everyone to go home. We can strengthen our dialogue to repair community relations.
Your family will be worried for your safety, please accept the advice of the police who are trying to defuse and are calling for calm.
— Claudia Webbe MP (@ClaudiaWebbe) September 17, 2022
Leaders of the Hindu and Jain temples in Leicester said that they were working with the police to get to the bottom of Saturday’s march. “Leaders of the Hindu community are not going to tolerate such acts of aggression that undermines the relationships and unity within this city of Leicester,” they said in a statement.
Have there been clashes in the past?
Mae said that the recent unrest was unprecedented in the more than three decades she had lived in the city.
Suleman Nagdi, of the Leicester-based Federation of Muslim Organisations, told the BBC, that while a cricket match between India and Pakistan leads to gatherings they have not turned so ugly in the past.
“What we have seen on the streets is very alarming,” he said, calling for calm and adding that “the disorder has to stop and it has to stop now.”
What’s the percentage of Hindus and Muslims in Leicester?
According to a UK National Health Service (NHS) report based on a 2011 census, Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland have higher proportions of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and those of No Religion compared to the UK benchmark.
According to the report, quoted by The Indian Express, the numbers of Muslims and Hindus were almost the same — 7.4 per cent and 7.2 per cent of the population respectively — while Sikhs were 2.4 per cent. Fifty-five per cent were Christian.
With inputs from agencies
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