At least 47 people have been arrested following weeks of disturbance and unrest in Leicester. In a statement issued by the Leicestershire Police, it was confirmed that as well as the 47 arrests, a 20-year-old man had been sentenced to 10 months in prison having pleaded guilty to possession of an offensive weapon.
The statement added: “An additional 18 people were arrested on Sunday night for a number of offences including affray, common assault, possession of an offensive weapon and violent disorder.”
Officers added that some of those arrested were not from Leicester, and had travelled from other areas including Birmingham.
What has happened in Leicester in recent weeks?
The disorder over the weekend is the latest in a series of disturbances in East Leicester. While many reports attribute the rising tensions to a cricket match between India and Pakistan on August 28th, community leaders date this back much further, to a series of attacks on Muslim men by Hindutva gangs.
In Green Lane Road, where there are several Muslim owned businesses and a Hindu temple nearby, a group of masked Hindu men were filmed marching through, with witnesses describing chants of “Jai Shri Ram”. This is a chant which has become synonymous with anti-Muslim violence in India, where Prime Minister Modi is coming under increasing scrutiny for his treatment of Muslims in India.
Local reports indicate that, despite rising tensions, last week had been peaceful until the weekend. The march of 200 young Hindu men is thus thought not to be an organic uprising, but rather a planned escalation. Following this, Muslims took to the streets in response, with clashes between the two groups ensuing.
This year, there have been multiple attacks on Muslims in Leicester by Hindutva gangs, with some asking for confirmation of their victims Muslim identity before attacking. These attacks replicate many of the attacks that have taken place across India.
Following the events of this weekend, a joint statement was released by Hindu and Muslim leaders in Leicester, they said:
“Our two faiths have lived harmoniously in this wonderful city for over half a century. We arrived in this city together, we faced the same challenges together. We fought off racist haters together, and collectively made this city a beacon of diversity and community cohesion.
“That is why today we are saddened and heartbroken to see the eruption of tension and violence. Physical attacks on innocent individuals and unwarranted damage to property are not part of a decent society and indeed not part of our faiths. What we have seen is not what we are about.
“We together call upon the immediate cessation of provocation and violence, both in thought and behaviour. We together call upon the inciters of hatred to leave our city alone.”
Suleman Nagdi, a representative of the Leicester-based Federation of Muslim Organisations, told the BBC: “There are some very dissatisfied young men who have been causing havoc. We need to get the message out that this must end and try to do this through parents and grandparents talking to their sons.”
A similar call for peace came from Sanjiv Patel, of the Hindu and Jain temples across Leicester, who said: “Violence is not a solution to anything. This has to be a time for peace, calm and engagement.”
As is reflected in the statements of community leaders, there is far more that unites these communities than divides them. Decades of not only peaceful coexistence, but active co-operation in the face of xenophobia and hostility has forged bonds that must not be allowed to be broken by recent events.
The statements of community leaders reflect an obvious, but important fact that bears repeating, that those who have conducted violent acts, and set out to do little more than harm other communities, are not representative of the wider Hindu and Muslim communities, both in Leicester and more widely.
In the coming days and weeks, discussions between the two communities must be held to ensure that tensions do not escalate any further.