At the end of August, violent tensions broke out between Hindus and Muslims in Leicester, England’s East Midlands region. Leicester is one of Britain’s most diverse cities and touts itself as a successful example of decades of integration.
Violence among the South Asian diaspora on a scale never seen before in Leicester is spotlighting how India’s hot and divisive political tensions are being exported via social media and inflammatory rhetoric, experts say. He says he’s got it.
Troubles at Leicester began after India beat Pakistan in the Asian Cricket Cup in Dubai on 28 August.
The victory celebration was chaotic as crowds of young men in their late teens and early twenties from both communities took to the streets and clashed with each other, forcing police intervention and the arrest of more than a dozen people. developed into
Community tensions in Leicester
However, tensions between South Asian Hindu and Muslim communities in Leicester did not end the next morning and continued for weeks.
The riots escalated on the night of September 17, when police said they confronted a group of unruly young men carrying out an “unplanned protest” that quickly escalated into violence.
A Hindu temple in Leicester reported that some of the mob took down the temple flag and set it on fire. This comes after reports that a group of Hindus were marching through Muslim neighborhoods toward a mosque chanting slander.
The street unrest in Leicester coincides with India’s long-simmering conflict between Hindus and Muslims. The conflict has worsened in recent years as the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government pursues policies it accuses of underrepresenting the Muslim minority.
Religious rifts have also been sparked by inflammatory posts on Indian social media. At the same time as the riots in Leicester, unsubstantiated stories of Hindu extremists kidnapping Muslim children circulated on Indian social media.
In the UK, a WhatsApp Hindu group spread rumors that a Muslim mob was attacking a facility in Leicester’s Hindu quarter.
Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby told reporters he had never experienced this level of tension before.
“I have spoken to many people across the community since this issue started and they are completely baffled by this. It does not represent what is simmering in Leicester, It seems to have more to do with subcontinental politics,” Soulsby said. Independent British newspaper.
Indian media fanning the flames
In India, the events in Leicester were widely reported. However, Geeta Seshu, co-founder of the Free Speech Collective, an Indian media think tank, told DW that prominent Indian media had incendiary reports that Muslim “gangs” were attacking Hindus. was broadcast without a source.
Seshu said the Leicester riots were covered by “partisan media” and called on the Indian government to take action to protect British Hindus who were allegedly attacked.
On Indian social media, the violence in Leicester dominated a highly polarized area of domestic politics.
A study conducted by BBC Monitoring using Twitter analytics tool Brandwatch identified hundreds of thousands of English-language tweets referring to Leicester in the context of Hindu-Muslim tensions in India.
Our research found that most of the tweets appeared during and after the peak of tensions in Leicester over the weekend of September 17-18.
“Among a sample of 200,000 tweets, BBC Monitoring found that just over half of the mentions were made by accounts whose tools were geographically located in India. Top hashtags used by #Leicester, #HidusUnderAttack and #HidusUnderattackinUK,” said BBC Monitoring, adding that it found evidence of manipulation by accounts using these hashtags. .
“For example, the users who used some of these hashtags the most were geographically located in India, had no profile pictures, and their accounts had only been launched earlier this month. It’s a typical sign to Individuals intentionally use multiple accounts to push the narrative,” the report said.
Indian community tensions never end
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies have been criticized by India’s Muslim minority for politicizing Hinduism while treating Muslims as second-class citizens.
Since 1989, Modi’s defining tenet of the BJP has been ‘Hindutva’, a political ideology that promotes Hindu ‘values’ as cornerstones of Indian society and culture.
Hindu nationalists hold a rally near a temple previously off limits to Muslims
Sidharth Bhatia, a journalist and commentator in India and abroad, said Indian politics, especially Hindutva, also influences the diaspora.
“India’s diaspora politics mirror what’s going on in India: the same polarization, the same social media campaigns, the same political and official patronage, and the same violence,” Bhatia told DW.
“The violence in Leicester is likely to be the beginning of such tensions. There is a new ugly mood in Hindutva groups, not only in the UK, but elsewhere. There will be retribution and the cycle will begin.” ” he added.
BJP did not wish to comment on whether its social media platforms encouraged tension and violence.
On September 19, the British High Commission for India issued an official statement on the Leicester riots, referring only to alleged “vandalism of premises and Hindu symbols”.
“We are in contact with diplomatic and security officials to prevent further attacks and to take action against the perpetrators,” said foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi.
Indian political activist Kavita Krishnan said BJP political leader Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had been building a global network for years to “incite Islamophobia and violence” in other countries. He said he has been pioneering.
This is then “amplified by both India’s Modi propaganda media and racist far-right voices from the UK, US, Russia, etc. This is no coincidence,” Krishnan told DW. rice field.
Editing: Wesley Rahn