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In the streets of Leicester, England, groups of young people, mainly Hindus and Muslims, clashed. Since August 28, videos have shown groups of masked youths heading to the streets amid rising tensions. Although community leaders have called for calm, many people, including our Observer, fear that violence will resume in the coming weeks.

Representatives of Hindu and Muslim communities gathered outside the Jame Mosque in Leicester on September 19 to call for calm. After several weeks of tension and violence between Hindus and Muslims, they called “inciting them to hatred to leave [their] town alone”

At the same time, tensions have taken a geopolitical turn. The Indian and Pakistani embassies in London issued statements on recent events, with India denouncing “violence against the indian community“and Pakistan referring to”Islamophobic incidents“.

“Many pointed the finger at the Hindu community, but the att*ckers were supporters of the RSS”

Our observer Dee Patel has lived in Leicester for 15 years. He feared for the future as fresh tensions erupted in the region on September 20 outside a hindu temple in Smethwick, a suburb of Birmingham:

In Leicester, there have been no new outbursts in the city since Sunday, and I think it will remain calm for a few days. But several voicemail messages shared in WhatsApp community groups suggest it’s not over.

It started on August 28 in the Belgrave area east of Leicester. Dozens of men, some with Indian flags, marched after their team’s victory against Pakistan in the Asian Cricket Cup.

Cries of “d*ath in Pakistan” were heard as the procession moved forward, before several individuals violently assaulted a Sikh.

This episode was presented as the starting point for inter-communal tensions in the Midlands city, interpreted by many as an opposition between Hindu and Muslim communities.

But our Observer disagreed with this version of events:

Leicester is a relatively mixed city. Unlike other cities, people live together here – Muslims, Hindus. There have never been any problems in the last 50 years [Editor’s note: since the first wave of Indian immigration]. The first problems arose last May, when a teenager was assaulted by around 30 people. Many pointed the finger at the Hindu community, but the att*ckers were RSS supporters.

The RSS, or “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh”, is a right-wing Hindu nationalist paramilitary group, which included, for example, Gandhi’s assassin.

Despite several sporadic minor incidents, calm has returned to the city following the events of August 28.

But the situation worsened on September 17 during an undeclared march by young Hindu extremists.

Hundreds of young men, most in masks and balaclavas, gathered in east Leicester. © @Majstar7

The procession headed towards the east of the city, towards a predominantly Muslim residential area. The protesters, some of whom came from London, chanted “Jai Shri Ram”: a Hindu slogan which means “Glory to Lord Rama” and has become synonymous with anti-Muslim hatred in India.

The ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan, echoed in Leicester on September 17, was popularized by members of the RSS during att*cks on protesters opposing India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act in 2020.

Mobilized elsewhere to secure the Queen’s funeral, police were outnumbered on September 17, as seen here on Green Lane Road.

Members of the Muslim community staged a counter-protest.

Some protesters were separated from Hindu extremists by police and were also armed with batons (in red here).
Some protesters were separated from Hindu extremists by police and were also armed with batons (in red here). © @Majstar7

Later in the evening, counter-protesters continued to confront the march of Hindu extremists, still separated by police cordons. They launched several projectiles, such as glass bottles.

Patel explained what happened next:

The counter-protesters were joined later in the evening by young people who had come to fight. Many of them wI’m from Birmingham. And there were stupid explosions, like damage to a hindu templeor broken car windows.

Two protesters burn a Hindu flag, while other videos show a protester tearing down another flag outside the temple.
Two protesters burn a Hindu flag, while other videos show a protester tearing down another flag outside the temple. © @SarahLGates1

RSS supporters will return. Many thought the tension was about cricket, so they didn’t get involved. But now they understand and will come out in the future: it’s not a cricket problem, it’s an RSS problem.

On September 21, Leicestershire Police announced that 47 people had been arrested since tensions erupted in late August.



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