Temple targeted, cops hit in East Leicester flare-up

LONDON: East Leicester saw some of its worst religious violence in years on Saturday night when huge mobs of South Asian-origin Muslims faced off against British-Indian Hindus.
Missiles were thrown and police officers hit while police dogs had to be drafted in as police lines tried to prevent both sides fighting each other.
Although community leaders and the police called for calm, large groups had gathered on Belgrave Road on Sunday night — as TOI was going to press — and a huge police operation was once again in place.
Locals told TOI that Saturday’s violence began when Muslims in Birmingham organised a “peaceful protest” in Leicester, for which a poster was created — which TOI has seen — mentioning a meeting point in Birmingham. The poster says: “We going to land in Lesta show these RSS Hindutva extremist not to mess with our Muslim and Sikh women, children and elderly.”
Anger was apparently triggered by a fake social media post claiming three Hindu youths were trying to kidnap a young Muslim girl.
The poster triggered a huge march by Hindu youths down Belgrave Road. That spiralled into violence when the two sides met, causing huge numbers of police to be drafted in to keep the gangs — many in masks and balaclavas — apart.
One side shouted “Jai Shree Ram” and “Vande Mataram” and the other “Allahu Akbar” . The Mandir Dhvaja (temple flag) was pulled down from the Leicestershire Brahma Samaj Shivalaya. One video shows a car being smashed up and turned over. Another shows a man being beaten up at a vegetable stall. Police are seen breaking up various fights as the male youths carrying poles, rods, knives and huge pieces of wood, run down the street.
A Leicestershire police spokesperson said: “Parts of East Leicester experienced serious disorder on Saturday evening into Sunday morning when large crowds formed after groups of young men began an unplanned protest. Regrettably the situation led to disorder.” Police put dispersal orders in place until 6am on Sunday and made two arrests. According to locals, at least two people have been seriously injured.
One resident told TOI: “The last time I saw scenes like this were when the EDL (English Defence League) marched and both communities, Hindus and Muslims, saw them out.”
Local MP Claudia Webbe said the tensions had been simmering since before the Asia Cup cricket match on 28 August which triggered the first spate of violence.
Madhu Shastri, chairman of trustees of the Leicestershire Brahma Samaj Shivalaya, has written to the chief constable of Leicestershire Police requesting that the person who tore the flag down be arrested. He said the temple may have to close until the tensions subside. Shastri also sought police protection for the temple.
A statement by a group of Leicester Hindu and Jain temples said: “The collective leadership of all Hindu temples and community centres across Leicester is appalled to hear of the unfortunate events that took place. We must unite in peace and call out those from within the community who are acting to disturb the peace and harmony.”

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