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Britain must crack down on Hindutva extremism, or expect more intercommunity conflict

October 8, 2022 at 10:40 am

Members of Muslim Students Federation Delhi University stage a protest after two persons from the Muslim community were allegedly killed by police in Ranchi during protest over controversial remarks made by two now-suspended BJP leaders about Prophet Mohammad, outside at the Delhi University in New Delhi India on June 11,2022. [Stringer – Anadolu Agency]

If any month in 2022 succeeded in further uniting far-right extremists in Europe, Israel and India in a herd mentality, it would be September, when the English city of Leicester witnessed clashes between young Hindu and Muslim men following a series of attacks against the Muslim community by hundreds of violent Hindutva individuals.

Going back to May, when dozens of Hindutva extremists launched an unprovoked attack on a young Muslim man, the tensions festered for months while other attacks took place against members of the city’s Muslim and Sikh communities.

Tensions reached their peak following a cricket match between India and Pakistan in Dubai at the end of August, resulting in Indian Hindu extremists marching through the streets of Leicester, chanting “death to Pakistan” and Hindutva slogans while carrying knives and other weapons. It seemed like an active effort to intimidate the local population, particularly the Muslim community.

It was then that witnesses and media outlets showed footage of the scenes of open conflict, which would make Enoch Powell smugly grin in his grave. As is usually the case, the Hindutva crowds did not fare so well against an equal number of opponents as they do when collectively descending on a single victim, and it was then that proper attention was finally shed on the matter.

Of course, much of the mainstream media espoused the perspective that the clashes were merely a result of the cricket match and that young, hot-headed men from both the Muslim and Hindu communities were to blame. By framing the events as a neutral issue, and one that was solely ignited by national sports rivalry, the media served to remove the accountability from the Hindutva extremists, making it seem as if the tensions were simply the continuation of the tragic legacy of the badly managed partition between India and Pakistan in 1947.

There is much truth to the latter perspective, as the issue does have roots going back decades to the invention of the Hindutva ideology in the 1920s during the Indian subcontinent’s fight for independence from British rule. Research has also extensively laid out efforts by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the Hindutva paramilitary organisation from which India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) originates – to spread its tentacles and embed itself into many Indian Hindu diaspora communities worldwide. This first occurred in East Africa, and then in the UK and Western nations, where they fled after their exile due to Kenya’s and Uganda’s nationalist leaders.

READ: Britain is haunted by its violent colonial past

On the other hand, the clashes in Leicester are the most recent manifestation of those decades of hate-preaching and violent rhetoric against Muslims by Hindutva figures, which has already been seen over the years in India. Now, that ideology is sufficiently exported to India’s Hindu diaspora worldwide, where it has taken hold of not only the leadership of communities but also the average Hindu worker and citizen. It is essential, however, to highlight that they are not all – or even the majority – of Hindus in the UK or other nations. This is an issue of a movement, but one that is rapidly growing and taken in by an extremely pervasive ideology of supremacism and supposed victimisation of Hindus by “foreign Muslim invaders”.

In response to the clashes, right-wing figures in the UK – and Europe and the US overall – took the opportunity to predictably label the events as the result of Islamist aggression and terror. Some claim them as proof of the consequences of Western governments not cracking down hard enough on Muslim communities.

Here we saw the latest manifestation of the alliance between the Western far-right Zionists in Israel and abroad and their subservient Hindutva followers in attacking Muslim communities and any figures who criticised the attacks on Muslims in Leicester.

This love triangle – or axis of extremism – has been seen countless times over the years, especially during incidents of never-ending Israeli bombardments of the Gaza Strip and violent suppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories, when right-wing media figures and Hindutva online “trolls” and groups flock instantly to Tel Aviv’s support. There are also the tangible military, trade, strategic and ideological ties between Israel and India, which have flourished under the BJP government of Narendra Modi.

What is more concerning than that axis, however, is the possible complicity of the British government itself, or at least elements within it, seemingly sympathetic towards Modi’s government and even having links to it.

Amongst those elements is Priti Patel, the former home secretary, who in 2014 wrote a letter of support to the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the overseas arm of the RSS. She also reportedly used her former position to enable immigration from India, which would not in itself be a negative if she did not allow in those who were carriers of Hindutva influence.

Boris Johnson, the former prime minister under whom she served, also initiated a significant open alliance with and military assistance to Modi’s government. This was undoubtedly influenced by elements within the Tory party, which has much of the UK’s Indian community as one of its major voting blocs.

READ: Hindu nationalists are seeking the Israelification of India; they must be stopped

Zooming out of the political sphere and focusing on events on the ground, though, one of the most prominent concerns during the Leicester clashes was the apparent lack of sufficient police presence and the seeming unwillingness of police to prevent the violence before it broke out. Video footage of the preceding events, when Hindutva men were marching the streets armed with weapons intended for violence, showed police officers merely accompanying the mob.

One could say that the police were allowing the crowds the right to express themselves and demonstrate, but there was no reported permit requested from authorities to demonstrate, and gathering in such a way armed with weapons hardly seems legal. The equivalent incident of a crowd of armed Muslims gathering – even with a permit – would be unimaginable and most certainly be condemned nationwide, with sustained pressure put on Islamic organisations to also condemn it.

Those who have a proclivity to suspect conspiracies may view the lack of police action as the British authorities allowing and enabling intercommunity tensions to flare up, or perhaps even actively attempting to promote communal conflict.

As it stands, there is no clear evidence for such an idea, and positive perceptions should be encouraged regarding the authorities’ intentions towards diverse communities, but inaction by the police at the time potentially reinforced those views. A number of arrests were also made against some from the Hindutva extremist crowd, which led to sentences due to participation in the disorder and the possession of weapons.

There remains a significant amount of work to be done to restore, reinforce and strengthen the trust the British Muslim community has in the government and police forces throughout the country. The tensions and violence seen in Leicester are highly likely to flare up again in that same city and in other parts of the UK, particularly areas of north-west London where Hindu and Muslim communities live in close proximity.

What we have seen so far, and continue to see, is an overall lack of willingness by both the government and the security services to tackle – or even recognise – the extremist Hindutva influence pervading the largely prosperous and peaceful British Indian community, promoting intercommunity tension.

Conditions for Hindutva individuals and organisations in the UK must be made harder across the board, otherwise, British authorities will be complicit in their spread.

READ: The rise of Hindutva fascism belies India’s claim to be a secular democracy

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.