What led to communal violence on the streets of Leicester | Ground Report

A Hindu temple was vandalised and a saffron flag outside it was pulled down by unidentified persons in East Leicester. Here's what led to the violence on the streets of Leicester.

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Video of a man clothed in black tearing down a saffron flag from a Hindu temple in Leicester had gone viral on social media. (Photo: Screengrab)

The Indian community is living in fear after weeks of violence and tensions in the UK's Leicester that erupted after a cricket match between India and Pakistan played in Dubai on August 28.

But what led to the sporadic violence that erupted on that night? India Today has learned that it all began when a group of boys from the Indian community, who happened to be Hindus, were celebrating India's win over Pakistan in the Asia Cup.

Tensions flared up when a man, who first introduced himself as a Pakistani Muslim, started disrespecting the Indian flag. Several attempts were made to stop him, but all of them failed and the Indian community members thrashed him up, India Today has learnt.

Eventually, it turned out that the man disrespecting the Indian flag neither belonged to the Hindu nor the Muslim community. Soon after, videos of the scuffle went viral on social media.

READ | We are one family: Religious leaders appeal for calm amid violence in UK's Leicester

Enraged by the incident, a bunch of Muslim boys attacked some of these Hindu boys going to Ganesh Puja on September 4.

“I am not living in my house as it is close to the mosque. Even for a hospital appointment, I have to take the help of the police, who have no idea when the investigations will be over, and I can go back home,” said a Hindu boy who was part of the Indian community, which was embroiled in the tensions days before.

“I have just two boys. Had one of the neighbours not opened their doors, the mob would have killed them,” said a woman, who was so stressed after these altercations that she had to be taken to the hospital for chest pain.

The entire group of 6-7 boys in the age group of 17-25 years refused to speak to India Today on camera. They feared being recognised even through their voices. Some of the boys from both Hindu and the Muslim sides knew each other quite well from before.

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For about a fortnight or so post the September 4 incident, people walking on the streets were stopped and asked about their religion. If they turned out to be a Hindu, they were harassed, the boys informed India Today.

Things came to a hilt when 200 Hindus took to the streets on September 17 in protests against the violence against the community. The Muslim contingent was present as well. Both groups confronted each other outside Shivalaya Mandir on Belgrave road, Leicester. The temple flags were then burnt by the Muslim side and a window was heavily damaged.

The Queen’s funeral was around the corner and much of the police resources had been diverted. Understaffed police tried to manage the crowd but found themselves outnumbered and even injured.

Suleman Nagdi, spokesperson of the Federation of Muslim organisations informed India Today that he condemns the act of vandalising by the Muslim community.

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“No place of worship should be damaged and if one place of worship is damaged, then it means all places of worship are damaged,” Nagdi said.

The leaders of the Hindu and Muslim communities have also issued a joint statement to end the violence in the city. The community leaders demanded that the “inciters of hatred” leave Leicester alone and called for an immediate cessation of provocation and violence, both in thought and behaviour.

BUT WHY LEICESTER?

Baroness Verma, a senior politician from the Tory party, who has lived in Leicester most of her life believed that “outside” people have come in and destroyed the 'unity in diversity' element in a city that has been a mixing pot of different cultures for decades. We have to work to bring the city together, she added.

There is another view that the disruptive elements were the “new additions” to the city from the Indian subcontinent who have yet to be integrated into society. Whatever the case may be, the fear is real and justice is awaited.

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