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Several videos, filmed in Leicester since August 28, show groups of young people, often masked, claiming to be mainly Hindus and Muslims, marching through the streets to fight it out. The situation has been particularly tense in recent weeks, against a backdrop of geopolitical tensions. Despite appeals for calm from community leaders, many fear, like our Observer, that the violence will resume in the weeks to come.
Gathered outside the Jame Mosque in Leicester on Monday morning, September 19, representatives of the Hindu and Muslim communities called for calm. After several weeks of tension and violence involving Hindus and Muslims, they called « together on the instigators of hatred to leave [leur] quiet town ». At the same time, and as much false information continues to be spread by extremists on both sides, tensions have taken a geopolitical turn. The Indian and Pakistani embassies in London have both communicated on the recent events, India denouncing « violence against the Indian community« , Pakistan evoking « Islamophobic incidents« .
« Many pointed the finger at the Hindu community, but the attackers were supporters of the RSS »
Our Observer Dee Patel, who has lived in Leicester for about 15 years, fears for the future, as new tensions emerged in the region on Tuesday September 20, in front of a Hindu temple in Smethwickin the suburbs of Birmingham:
In Leicester, there have been no new outbursts in the city since Sunday [18 septembre, NDLR], and I think it will stay calm for a few days. But several voicemails that are shared in community WhatsApp loops suggest it’s not over.
On August 28, in the Belgrave district, east of Leicester. Dozens of men, some with Indian flags, parade after their team’s victory over Pakistan in the Asian Cup cricket. To cries of « death in Pakistan », the procession progresses before several individuals violently attack a man, of Sikh faith, present further.
— SAMRI (@SAMRIReports) August 30, 2022
The procession is surrounded by a few police officers, probably too few to manage the overflows. ©@SAMRIReports
This episode is presented as the starting point of the community tensions that rock the Midlands city, presented by many as an opposition between the Hindu and Muslim communities.
Our Observer contests this view:
Leicester is a relatively mixed city. Unlike others, people live together here, Muslims, Hindus. There’s never been a problem for the last fifty years [depuis la première vague d’immigration indienne, NDLR]. The first problems took place last May, when a teenager was attacked by about thirty individuals. Many pointed the finger at the Hindu community, but the attackers were RSS supporters.
The RSS, for « Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh » is an ultra-nationalist Hindu paramilitary group, which included, for example, the assassin of Gandhi.
Following the events of August 28 and despite a few sporadic incidents, calm seemed to have returned to the city.
The situation really escalated on Saturday September 17, with an undeclared march of young Hindu extremists.
The procession went to the east of the city, in a predominantly Muslim residential area. The demonstrators, some of them from London, chanted “Jai Shri Ram”: a Hindu slogan which means “Glory to the God Ram” and has become synonymous with anti-Muslim hatred in India.
This is what kicked it off today in #Leicester. Hindu mobs marched through the streets, chanting outside the mosque & provoked Muslims. Hardly any font. Muslims were told by the police there weren’t going to be any demos & they had it all under control. Muslims then came out. pic.twitter.com/mddlt5TinC
— Majid Freeman (@Majstar7) September 18, 2022
The slogan “Jai Shri Ram”, repeated in Leicester on September 17, was chanted by members of the RSS during attacks by protesters opposed to the reform of Indian citizenship in 2020.
Some are saying what’s the harm in Hindus protesting and chanting their slogans outside the mosque and on the streets? It wasn’t just provoking but the #Hindutva racist mobs were attacking random Muslims in the streets too. The Muslims came out in numbers AFTER this. #Leicester https://t.co/Ari3i5c295 pic.twitter.com/PZXo2iKUNC
— Majid Freeman (@Majstar7) September 18, 2022
Mobilized to secure the Queen’s funeral, the police were outnumbered on Saturday September 17 to try to prevent violence, like here on Green Lane Road.
A counter-demonstration by members of the Muslim community then took place.
Later in the evening, the counter-protesters continued to face the Hindu extremist motorcade, still separated by police cordons. Several projectiles, such as glass bottles, were launched in particular.
Dee Patel explains the rest of the evening:
The counter-demonstrators were joined in the evening by young people who had come to fight, young people who wanted to fight. Many of them came from Birmingham. And there were stupid outbursts, with damage to a Hindu templeor broken car windows.
RSS supporters will return. Many thought the tensions were related to cricket, so they did not mobilize. But now they have understood and will mobilize in the future: it is not a cricket problem but a RSS problem.
On Wednesday September 21, Leicestershire Police announced that 47 people had been arrested since the beginning of tensions at the end of August.