Leicester resident Jahangir Akbar describes the Hindutva violence and intimidation that took place in the city on Saturday.
On Saturday a large group of masked Hindu youth, escorted and protected by police, marched recklessly through Green Lane Road in Leicester during busy shopping hours. Some have perversely argued: “Bro, it was a peaceful demo/walk/ march.” No it wasn’t. It was a trigger point. End of.
Their presence whilst masked with balaclavas and chanting was unruly, intimidating and threatening. The mob disturbed the peace, created anxiety and caused significant, unneeded inconvenience in an already emotionally-charged situation.
They created havoc in broad daylight and took up the entire walkway on Green Lane Road. The back-and-forth marching, shouting and wild body language was all deliberate and engineered to create tension. Let’s not beat around the bush.
The police are claiming this was unplanned. Possibly. But I hold the police equally responsible and I will tell you why shortly.
We don’t know why or how this was allowed or whether this was a pre-planned event, but one thing is for sure – it has unsettled densely populated areas and created unnecessary tension between these mask-wearing Hindu thugs and the peaceful Muslim/Hindu community.
The implications were felt for the remaining part of the evening where a small fringe Hindu mob group was eventually trapped and surrounded by both police and the local community on Belgrave Road. Such is karma.
This civil unrest was heightened even further when the mindless mob threw glass bottles at both the police and the peaceful Muslim observers and on several occasions narrowly missed police and other citizens and bystanders. The police separating the two groups was truly a Godsend.
On the balance of probabilities, it seems very evident that this provocation was deliberately engineered to sustain community polarisation and division. There is a fringe group of narcissistic Hindu extremists who are hellbent on engineering this showdown toward chaos and destruction.
This wasn’t a march, it was “pre-space riot” type of behaviour. Remember, individuals lose their sense of self, reason and rationality in a crowd and hence they label the opposition as aggressors and then later play the victim. But in a world of social media where raw footage of events is streamed in real-time, it’s easy to see who the perpetrator is and who the victim is. So let’s not play semantics here. It’s not helping.
I cannot evidentially nor definitively say whether this was a Hindutva/BJP/RSS-fuelled set of actions. But one thing is for sure – what was observed on Saturday night and several weeks ago is a carbon copy of the type of civil unrest unleashed on Muslims in some parts of India.
Whilst India has been held together by its constitution which promotes equality, there has been a detrimental and toxic shift in politics influenced by RSS ideology. Weirdly, RSS – an alien idea to that of Hinduism – is finding itself slithering into mainstream politics and domestic policy. This shift in ideology and behaviour, if not challenged, is contagious and is the beginning of something dreadful. If you don’t know what Hindutva/BJP/RSS is, then research it.
I will say it again and again, mainstream Hindus and Muslims live harmoniously side by side and I am not blaming the entire Hindu community nor am I going to unethically frame Hinduism or Hindus as the overall problem. Because that’s not the case here and it would be immoral and irreligious of me to do so.
I know what it feels like when the whole of Islam is under attack because of the wrongful actions of a few and I would never wish that on any community. What we have here is a mindless fringe group of isolated Hindus causing the problems. It needs to stop.
Leicester as a model city
Having resided here in Leicester for well over a decade, I have never seen anything like it. The last time I saw tension like this was back in my hometown of Luton in July 1995 during the Luton riots.
However, if you don’t know what an argument between two race groups can do, then for the rest of today put Netflix on hold and Google “Oldham Riots.” If you want further entertainment, YouTube it. It might not be HD or 4K but will be “entertaining” enough and will show you what the streets can turn into when relationships and mutual respect breaks down.
Leicester is a brilliant city to live and raise your children in and I would argue that it is (was) the cosmopolitan model of social and community cohesion. The last 50 years have seen Muslim and Hindus live side by side, doing business together, going out as friends and educating children in the same local schools. Diwali and Eid are reciprocated on both sides and there is a genuine sense of collaboration and community between the two. Recent tension has been a stain on this longevity and sustained relationship. The stain needs to be removed. Urgently.
When communities break down this creates division which leads to lack of progression. No one wins. In modern day Britain, this level of Islamophobia has no place, not here or anywhere. And it should not be tolerated anymore. Any hate towards a community is unacceptable and inhumane.
Tension is high and increasing and Saturday night’s confrontations could have escalated to direct violence. Under such chaotic circumstances, there is a lot of misinformation, untruths, lies, rumours and Chinese whispers that are irresponsibly circulating on social media. It’s easy to misinterpret the situation and often a lot of information that is being viewed or heard is either taken out of context or twisted to suit a particular narrative.
And because we don’t have the time to verify or establish the source, reliability or credibility of such information, we settle for whatever we come across. But we need to do much more than absorbing bitesize info; we all need to take a step back and calm down. Confrontations never lead to peace.
I hold the police equally responsible. Their inaction and allowance of an unplanned march from Loughborough Road to Green Lane Road inclusive of shouting, wearing masks and balaclavas, and taking up a whole walkway on Green Lane Road without a risk assessment and wider stakeholder involvement should have prompted them to immediately and rigorously stop this march.
The police should have under S60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 blocked this march and should have carried out mass arrests. The police recklessly afforded them security and an escort into a busy and densely populated area. Very irresponsible of them. It seems that double standards are prevalent yet again.
Finally, the youth. Take it easy. It’s wonderful and great to see that you are also worried and concerned and wanting to do something but this “something” must be done in consultation and in consensus with what the wider community, police, elders and ulama have agreed on. Any deviation from this will be void of blessings and will be detrimental to what we are all trying to achieve.
If you have any grievances, please report it. One wrong action and you could find yourself and your acquaintances on the wrong side of the law with other immediate and unwanted lifelong implications, not only for you but your family too. Parents, elders, ulama and the wider community are very worried, and we need to be flagbearers of peace, restraint and mutual respect.
Our duty is to be the better of the two and to follow due process. Under no circumstances must you carry anything that can be deemed as a weapon or move in groups trying to resolve the situation. What difference then is your conduct to the mob group? So, it’s important to exercise restraint.
Outsiders. Again thank you for your concerns and wanting to do something but please don’t come. It can potentially add fuel to an already flamed situation. You know full well tension is high and your presence will be misinterpreted and cause other unneeded reactionary actions.
And to this small group of Hindus, your recent actions have triggered a lot of civil unrest and it’s unfair for this to continue. There is a lack of engagement and communication, and we would like to meet you to discuss your grievances, concerns and complaints. It seems that something has aggravated you but no one seems to know what it is or what’s going on in your community. Let’s engage for the greater good. Please reach out so that we can all put this behind us and move forward.