The President of the ISKCON Temple in Leicester, Pradyumna Das, read out a statement calling for harmony in the city of Leicester in the wake of violent clashes, which community leaders say has been instigated by “inciters of hate”.
Hindus and Muslims from the local community gathered outside a mosque in the city this week to make a plea for peace and harmony amid ongoing patrols by Leicestershire Police, who have made 47 arrests since the clashes broke out in the wake of an India-Pakistan cricket match at the end of last month.
Pradyumna Das said in his statement: "We, the family of Leicester, stand in front of you not only as Hindus and Muslims but as brothers and sisters. 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 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're 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.”
A 20-year-old man has been sentenced to 10 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to possession of an offensive weapon during clashes in the city.
Rob Nixon, Temporary Chief Constable at Leicestershire Police, said: “The sentence is reflective of the fact that this was a serious offence and he has ended up with time in prison.
“We will not stand for this unrest in our city. There is an extensive policing operation ongoing, acting on information and reports of gatherings and offering community reassurance. Be reassured: we are working to keep you safe and to arrest and bring to justice those that are causing harm in our communities.”
Confirming local fears of outside intervention in stoking the violence, the force noted: “In total, 47 people have been arrested for offences in relation to the unrest in the east of the city. Some of those arrested were from out of the city, including some people from Birmingham.”
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It follows a weekend of what the police termed as “serious disorder” and “significant aggression” as Hindu and Muslim groups clashed in the wake of the India-Pakistan Asia Cup cricket match in Dubai on August 28.
Diaspora group Insight UK has claimed that much of the violence was the result of “misinformation” and fake news circulating on social media. The Indian High Commission in London issued a strongly worded condemnation of the attacks and called for protection for members of the Indian diaspora affected by the violence.
“We strongly condemn the violence perpetrated against the Indian community in Leicester and vandalisation of premises and symbols of Hindu religion,” the High Commission said.
*Info: ISKCON Leicester