Just as authorities and residents grappled with communal tensions that erupted over the weekend in Leicester, UK, unrest was reported in Smethwick on Tuesday evening as unruly protesters launched a violent demonstration outside the Durga Bhawan Temple, bottles to swaying the grounds and abusing the temple officials.
The crowd, protesting a visit by Sadhvi Ritambhara – the founder of Param Shakti Peeth and Vatsalyagram – also burned crackers and threw them into the temple. A protester who tried to climb over the fence and enter the temple was stopped by police.
The protesters warned of similar attacks to other temples in the UK and said they would not allow Hindu leaders to visit the country.
As tensions flare in Britain, News18 takes a look at the origins of tensions in Leicester, what governments have said and what lies ahead for communities:
The Leicester Episode
Sources told CNN-News18 that the clashes started on August 28 when a Muslim restaurant in Leicester failed to respect the Indian flag for the final result of the first Asia Cup match between India and Pakistan. This created tensions between groups from India and Pakistan. When India won the competition, the crowd celebrated with flags and crackers with the permission of the local government.
On September 4, Pakistan won the competition and nearly 10,000 young people from Birmingham took part, sources said. Among the many incidents of violence, a Hindu house in honor of Ganesh Chaturthi was attacked. An attempt to rape a young Hindu man was recorded and his aunt was punched in the nose when she came to rescue him, CNN-News18 had previously reported.
The group reportedly gathered in a stadium and made an appeal that Islam is in danger. Some youths also desecrated a local Hanuman temple, sources said.
The attacks continued into the third day, when dozens of Muslim youths rioted, destroying homes of at least 50 residents and several cars, sources said. The houses, identified using religious symbols, were targeted, sources said.
What did the police say?
Leicestershire Police have so far made 47 arrests in connection with violence that broke out over the weekend, mainly in the Belgrave and Spinney Hills areas to the north and east of the city.
On Twitter, Leicestershire Police Chief Constable Rob Nixon said: “We have had numerous reports of an outbreak of disorder in parts of the eastern Leicester part of the city. We’ve got officers there, we’re taking control of the situation, extra officers are on the way and diversion powers, stop search powers, are authorized. Please don’t join. We call for calm.”
Our response to disorder in East Leicester pic.twitter.com/1alu5Q95er
— Leicestershire Police (@leicspolice) September 18, 2022
What did the local authorities say?
Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester, said “the police had been given reassurance that things were calming down”. “It’s mostly young men in their late teens and early twenties and I’ve heard suggestions that people have come from outside (to town) looking for a chance to have a set. It is very disturbing for the people in the areas where this has happened,” he said, calling for calm.
Sanjiv Patel, who represents Hindu and Jain temples throughout Leicester, told the BBC that all groups have lived in harmony in the city over the years. “But over the past few weeks, it has become clear that there are issues that need to be discussed at the table to identify what people are dissatisfied with. Resorting to violence is not the way to deal with this,” he said.
Suleman Nagdi of the Leicester-based Federation of Muslim Organizations, who described the events as “alarming”, told the BBC there have been problems between the two communities since the cricket match, but things took a turn for the worse. “There are some very disgruntled young men who have caused havoc. We need to get the message out that this must end…” he said.
How did the Indian High Commission react?
In a statement posted on Twitter on Monday, India’s High Commission said: “We strongly condemn the violence against the Indian community in Leicester and the destruction of buildings and symbols of the Hindu religion. We have vigorously raised this matter with the British authorities and have taken immediate action against those involved in these attacks.” India also urged the UK to protect those affected.
— India in the UK (@HCI_London) September 19, 2022
Leicester: melting pot of cultures
Leicester, in the East Midlands region of England, is known as the city with a huge population of South Asian descent. The city’s Belgrave Road is known as the Golden Mile, lined with Indian jewelry, food, and other businesses, as well as a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.
One of the most diverse cities in the UK, Leicester’s white population is just over 50 percent, according to the 2011 census. The rest of the population is made up of diverse ethnic groups, with Hindus and Muslims sharing businesses and schools and celebrating each other’s festivals. and respect religious events.
The city’s former Indian MP, the first of South Asian descent, made a call for calm on social media.
“To me, Leicester is the largest city in the world. Nowhere else do so many different people of different languages, cultures and ethnicities live together in harmony,” said Keith Vaz, from Goan, who was Member of Parliament for Leicester East from 1987 to 2019.
“We celebrate Diwali, Eid and Baisakhi as one big happy family. I am saddened to see the recent events … a small minority of people are trying to destroy the spirit of Leicester,” he said.
Why the unrest in Smethwick now?
Videos shared on social media showed a large crowd of people marching towards the Durga Bhawan Hindu Center on Spon Lane on Tuesday evening, with some members shouting “Allahu Akbar” slogans.
According to a report in Birmingham World, a social media account called Apna Muslims had called for a “peaceful protest” outside the Durga Bhawan temple on Tuesday.
According to the report, protesters gathered even after community leaders were informed that Sadhvi Rithambara’s planned visit had been cancelled. Community leaders were notified of the cancellation long before the unruly protesters gathered outside the temple.
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