The government has initiated an independent review into the recent clashes between the Muslim and Hindu communities in Leicester. As part of this review, The Henry Jackson Society (HJS) has compiled and consolidated the findings from two significant research reports on the Leicester unrest.
In an HJS panel discussion entitled 'Lessons from Leicester: Addressing Social Cohesion and Extremism Concerns’ this week, experts emphasised the importance of learning from the Leicester unrest to address social cohesion and extremism concerns.
Charlotte Littlewood, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, has also played a crucial role in shedding light on the Hindu-Muslim unrest in Leicester. Littlewood's report, which focuses on the events that unfolded last year, has generated extensive discussions in the UK and India regarding the causes and propagation of anti-Hindu sentiments.
She said: "I think we're dealing with a territorial communal issue and community breakdown. Naturally, both communities chanted the slogans that are associated with their communities. Now you could say that there is communal nationalism in both those chants – "Allahu Akbar" and "Jai Shree Ram".
“But whether there is organised Hindu extremism, 'Hindutva terrorists', or 'RSS terrorists' as was claimed, which is what really brought the threat against the Hindu community and what then perpetuated in the media – that is what I contest. I absolutely think that there is anti-Hindu and anti-Muslim hate going on in Leicester in a youth-gang sort of scenario. But ‘organised or backed by foreign backers’ as well as another claim – ‘organised and backed by India’ – no, I don't think so."
Prasiddha Sudhakar, a data and intelligence analyst at the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), has conducted wide-ranging research on anti-Hindu disinformation. Her research findings have garnered significant attention and have been widely covered by esteemed media outlets around the world.
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She explained during the discussion: "To give you a background of the investigation that NCRI conducted, what we did was really digital forensics, into looking at the entire cyber social domain during the entirety of the Leicester unrest, looking at the data across Twitter, across Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and several other platforms. What we have seen is that no specific foreign influence operations were actually detected during the Leicester unrest. So what this means is that there were no, let's say, coordinated activities from Indian accounts during the unrest itself.
"But that being said, one of the methodologies that we used in our research was looking into sentiment analysis using Google's perspective API, which basically tells us scores for whether a tweet is toxic, threatening, harmful, has identity attacks, and so on and so forth. And what we did is we thought that there was a rise in tweets with identity attacks following the violence that had taken place. And what we did from those tweets that had identity attacks is we classified the top 500 tweets with the most engagement on identity attacks, and what we saw is that most of the blame for the violence was cast on Muslims as being the aggressors and this blame was cast in India."
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Renowned investigative journalist John Ware, formerly associated with the BBC's ‘Panorama’ programme, joined Sudhakar and Littlewood in the introspective discussion to delve into many such facets of the tensions in Leicester that came to fore last year.
*Info: Henry Jackson Society