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Communalism

Leicester Communal Clashes: 'India Continues to be in Contact with UK Authorities,' Says MEA

While India has condemned the communal violence, Muslim bodies in the UK have criticised India's statement for appearing to speak only for Hindus.

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New Delhi: India on Thursday, September 22, reiterated its condemnation of the communal clashes involving the Indian community in the British city of Leicester, even as the UK’s top Muslim body had raised concern that the Indian high commission only seemed to speak for Hindus.

Since the August 28 Asia cup cricket match between India and Pakistan, tensions have been simmering between different communities. Over the next two weeks, there were several incidents of disorder. Matters came to a head on the evening of September 17, with social media channels filled with visuals of the tearing down of a religious flag from a Hindu temple and alleged vandalisation of Muslim-owned businesses.

Two days later, on September 19, the Indian high commission tweeted a statement saying that it had “strongly taken up” the violence with UK authorities and had sought “immediate action” against those involved in the attacks.

While the statement condemned the “violence perpetrated against the Indian community” in Leicester, the high commission specifically mentioned the “vandalisation of premises and symbols of Hindu religion”.

The Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body of Muslim groups, published an open letter addressed to the Indian high commissioner-designate, Vikram Doraiswami.

“British Indian communities expect a balanced view from the Indian High Commission, which represents all of the diaspora, which can help heal divisions locally,” said the letter, dated September 20.

While it said that the Indian high commissioner had the right to speak against the desecration of Hindu symbols, it said it should also represent all Indians. 

“You must represent all Indians and also condemn the deliberate targeting, intimidation and instances of assault of Muslims and Sikhs by large groups of thugs chanting far-right Hindutva slogans, mirroring tactics used by the RSS against communities in India,” the Muslim Council of Britain wrote.

Also read: At the Heart of the Leicester Unrest Is Not Religion But Chauvinist Community Politics

The letter claimed there was “a clear hesitancy to call out these groups who have instigated this thuggery and their political ideology; which they seem to be attempting to import from India”.

At the Ministry of External Affairs’ weekly Thursday briefing, there were a couple of questions about the Leicester violence, which led spokesperson Arindam Bagchi to refer to the statement issued by the Indian high commission earlier in the week.

He also added that the Indian mission continues to be “in touch with the diplomatic as well as the security authorities to prevent further attack and take action against the perpetrators that has been our repeated request to prevent these attacks and take action”. 

The MEA spokesperson also highlighted that external affairs minister S. Jaishankar had raised his concerns about the security and welfare of the Indian community in the UK during his talks with UK foreign secretary James Cleverly in New York.

While there was no query related to the questions raised by the MCB at the briefing, there was no official comment when The Wire reached out to the MEA about the open letter.

However, sources asserted that the Indian high commission’s statement had been carefully drafted to reflect the concerns. They noted that the first sentence did reference the “Indian community” in general terms, instead of the word ‘minority’ which is often used in Indian statements about attacks on Hindus in other countries, like Bangladesh.

Further, the vandalisation of the Hindu temple was mentioned as it was the only institution to be damaged, explained sources.

So far, Leicestershire Police have arrested 47 people in connection with the clashes. One man has already been convicted and sentenced to 10 months, after he pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon.