Last Saturday, 17 September, far-right Hindu nationalists and fascists, masked and armed, marched through primarily working-class Muslim-majority areas of Leicester.
By evening, these Hindutva-inspired extremists were congregating on Belgrave Road, shutting down half the golden mile, and facing-off against Muslims who had responded to their surprise march.
Hundreds of police were brought in to divide the two groups, with a handful of arrests made subsequently.
This march follows months of attacks in the city specifically targeting Muslims.
On 22 May, a Muslim teenager was left hospitalised after being beaten up by a gang of 30 Hindu-chauvinist thugs, equipped with poles and bats. The teenager was blocked in whilst walking to the park, asked what his name was, and if he was Muslim. He was lucky to escape with his life.
These thugs were caught on CCTV. But the police proved to be impotent, and nobody was charged.
Later, on Sunday 28 August, following an India-Pakistan cricket match, a mob of India fans chanted ‘Pakistan Murabad’. This is akin to chanting ‘death to’ or ‘destroy’ Pakistan – a code word for ‘Muslims’.
A group then attacked a Sikh man, footage of which was shared widely on social media.
In September, lone attacks continued. This included aggression against a traffic warden on Belgrave Road, who had a knife pulled out on him, and who was asked if he was a Muslim. After confirming he was, he was physically attacked, which he recorded on his bodycam.
Another 17-year-old Muslim teenager was similarly asked about his religion, and was almost attacked, but he escaped in broad daylight on Cottesmore Road.
? #LEICESTER UPDATE
A 17 yr old Muslim lad was on his way to work yday at 11:30AM. He was on Cottesmore Road when 2 Hindu guys stopped him & asked him his name & if he’s Hindu or Muslim. They then grabbed him by his neck but he managed to beat them both up & escape.
— Majid Freeman (@Majstar7) September 9, 2022
Intimidation and escalation
All of these attacks and intimidation, coupled with police passivity and inaction, led to a big mobilisation of the Muslim community earlier this month, with hundreds rallying, including many elders.
Important Hindu and Muslim faith leaders put out a statement calling for calm, although not all.
In previous weeks, with police failing to act, local Muslims had taken matters into their own hands: forming self-defence patrols in response, with reports of some excesses taken out on Hindu symbols outside houses.
A relative calm emerged for a week, until the march on 17 September, where a clearly planned march of around 200-300 Hindutva fascists – mostly masked; some armed – stormed through the streets, with only a few police escorting them.
They reportedly started their march from Loughborough Road, walking all the way over to Green Lane Road. Chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ could be heard, menacingly provoking and intimidating the Spinney Hill North Evington area.
The march continued all the way onto Melton Road, where Muslims had followed in response. Bottles were thrown, before hundreds of police were belatedly brought in to divide the two groups.
Goaded and provoked all day, an opportunist took down a flag outside Shivalaya Leicestershire Brahma Samaj. A Muslim imam, however, protected the Samaj, trying his best to calm the crowd.
Organised and planned
Unlike other far-right and fascist organisations in the UK, like the English Defence League or the British National Party, this Hindutva group – on the face of it – has no clear public leaders or demands.
There have been no speeches or placards on these marches in Leicester; nor any public calls for people to join.
They are, however, clearly well-organised. To secretly mobilise hundreds of armed and masked men – without the local community’s knowledge – requires planning, resources, time, and money.
Unconfirmed reports have suggested that some were bussed in from as far away as Wembley in London.
Interestingly, the Guardian has reported that, of those arrested, “five came from Birmingham, while one came from Solihull, one from Luton, and one gave an address in Hounslow”, although their religious backgrounds were not denoted.
Opportunists and extremists
What is the nature of these marches and attacks?
Purposefully blasting religious Hindu music outside Muslim houses and mosques. Marching intimidatingly through Muslim-majority areas. Provoking and goading communal violence and hatred. Questioning and confirming if a target is a Muslim before launching attacks. Screaming ‘jai shri ram’ and ‘vande mataram’, specifically towards Muslims, hoping for a response, and actively looking for a fight.
Do these people represent Hindus in Leicester? Absolutely not. The overwhelming majority of working-class Hindus who live in these areas are terrified – just as shocked and horrified at the sight of the city’s streets being overtaken by masked, armed men.
The far-right Hindu organisations that like to pretend that they are somehow representatives of Hindus in the UK are in fact unelected and small. In truth, they represent nobody but themselves.
Muslim extremists also certaintly exist. And opportunists amongst them have no doubt exploited these events for their own cause. This includes the man who took down the flag outside the mandir (Hindu temple), which was subsequently burnt.
Again, like their Hindutva counterparts, many of these elements are also opportunists who have reportedly come to Leicester from other areas of the country.
The mainstream media have portrayed this violence and aggression as being solely related to cricket; simply a question of India versus Pakistan. But this is false.
Leicester itself, and specifically the area around Green Lane Road and Spinney Hill, actually has a majority of Muslims who are from India – not Pakistan. And these attacks began well before the infamous cricket match.
Looking at the timeline of events, the provocations and intimidation have clearly been initiated and stoked from one side only.
Stepping back and widening the scope, it is clear that events in Leicester are a carbon copy of the exact same provocations and attacks seen in Narendra Modi’s India.
India’s 200 million Muslims have become second-class citizens, subject to living in fear of attacks and riots on a daily basis.
For example, this year’s Hindu festival of Ram Navmi in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and West Bengal took the form of jingoistic processions, with armed mobs marching through Muslim areas, aggressivly chanting ‘jai shri ram’.
MP के खरगौन में राम नवमी के जुलूस के दौरान दंगा।
राजस्थान के करौली की तरह राम नवमी का जुलूस मुस्लिम मुहल्ला काजीपुरा में घुस कर की नारेबाज़ी, खिलाफ़ में हुई पत्थरबाजी।
इस्थिति तनावपूर्ण। @newsclickin pic.twitter.com/W19poAWhC3
— काश/if Kakvi (@KashifKakvi) April 10, 2022
These men goaded residents in these areas, blasting out Hindu religious songs and giving demagogic speeches. In response, Muslims and other minority groups threw stones at the march, which led to violence.
Does this all sound familiar?
Hindu far right
Narendra Modi’s political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP), and their most hardened and zealot followers, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), are behind these processions in India.
The RSS is a paramilitary organisation. Their ideology of Hindutva – far-right Hindu nationalism and chauvinism – was directly copied and inspired from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
How are these linked to organisations in the UK?
The RSS is part of the Sangh Parivar, a family of Hindu nationalist organisations. The ones operating in the UK include the HSS (Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh), which organises children in shakas, and which has previously been investigated by the UK charity commission for hate against Muslims.
Others include the Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Council of Hindus). These are the two primary organisations of the Hindu far-right in Britain.
These same organisations were heavily involved in Leicester in the 2019 general election, aiding the smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.
Subsequently, these organisations have not gone away – far from it. A reminder of the words of the BJP’s foriegn affairs chief, Viyay Chauthaiwale, are important to recall:
“We are also encouraging – and we plan to pursue this more aggressively in the months to come – the Indian diaspora to become part of [Modi’s] social programs.”
Another clue to the true culprits has been the response of the Indian High Commission who stated: “We strongly condemn the violence perpetrated against the Indian Community in Leicester and vandalization of premises and symbols of Hindu religion.”
By ‘Indian Community’, we doubt they are talking about the second- and third-generation Indian Muslims living in Leicester. It is clear to see who they are solely targeting for the blame.
Terror and aggression
Taken altogether, things become clearer.
Rising attacks against Muslims in India has inspired the Hindu far-right in the UK to replicate such acts. And far-right Hindu organisations abroad, already established in Britain, have taken it upon themselves to mobilise their supporters to carry out this aggression.
They have money and are politically well-connected, with established links to the Conservative Party, and even to some local right-wing Labour councillors.
Their aim is to purposefully whip-up terror and stoke communal hatred; to break local class solidarity and bonds; and to promote a far-right brand of Hindu nationalism in the UK.
Alongside this, opportunist Muslim extremists are happy to play their role.
Fighting the far right
A distinction must be made between fascism and individual fascists.
The phenomenon of fascism is best described as a mass movement of the frenzied middle class, who are ruined and squeezed by capitalism and its crises. This includes peasants, backward workers, and declassed, lumpenised layers.
Historically, in certain periods and places, these elements have been organised by the large capitalists to specifically crush the organised working class.
In this respect, fascists have only ever been handed power by the ruling class as a last roll of the dice, in times of extreme polarisation and radicalisation, in order to defeat the working class and avert the threat of revolution.
Today, India is not a fascist country. The organisations of the working class have not been defeated. Indeed, the masses are on the march. And layers such as the farmers are organising mass action against Modi.
Nevertheless, fascist organisations like the RSS exist in significant numbers. And Modi’s BJP government leans on these to mobilise support, break working-class unity, and disrupt protests and strikes.
This form of Indian fascism – Hindutva – has been exported onto the streets of Leicester. Its clear aim is also to divide the working class; to destroy the unity that has existed between Muslims and Hindus since Asians moved to the city in the postwar period.
Their methods are terror, intimidation, provokation and lone attacks on individuals.
For these thugs, victory means seeing Hindus turn against Muslims, and Muslims turn against Hindus. Some opportunist Islamic fanatics will no doubt also be rubbing their hands with glee at such a prospect too. This cannot be allowed to happen.
Leicestershire police have been impotent when it comes to bringing peace. Arrests that have taken place have only happened because of pressure from the local community.
The ‘armed bodies of men’ of the capitalist state only ever take a light touch towards the far-right, and can often even be seen actively protecting these mobs and their marches.
Working-class Muslims and Hindus, therefore, can only truly rely on their own strength and organisation.
We must also maintain a sense of proportion. The organisations representing Hindutva groups are well-funded, well-connected, and well-organised. But they are nevertheless small.
The working class in Leicester – most especially amongst Asians, Hindu and Muslim – has fought off fascists and racists together many times over the years.
A united front of working-class organisations must be called upon and raised to fight back against the far-right menace wherever it rears its head. If this group marches again, they must be blocked by a mass movement of united workers, as was the case with the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.
If working-class Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, socialists, and trade unionists were to come together and raise even just their little finger, these far-right thugs and mobs could be easily crushed. But as of yet, no such mobilisation has been called in Leicester.
The South Asia Solidarity Group has called for a protest outside the Indian High Commission, however, which is a positive move.
The far-right has to be fought by all communities of all religious backgrounds, on the basis of united class struggle. They represent a threat to us all. And until they are defeated, driven off our streets by organised workers and youth, they will remain a danger – one that could easily spread to other cities in Britain and beyond.