The British newspapers that week were not worried about appearing editorially urgent and dramatic in their headlines. Perhaps, they must have been concerned about undermining the seriousness of the situation they witnessed. Some headlines were ‘Stop This Madness’, ‘Blazing Revenge of the Temple Bombers, ‘Revenge! Hate Mob Burn Down Temple’, ‘Fears Grow Over Temple Attacks’, ‘Peace Plea As Temple Blitz Rock Britain’, and ‘Arson Wrecks Hindu Temple-Firebomb Blitz in Midlands. This was the week of December 6, 1992.
By Tushar Gupta
The Shree Krishna Mandir in West Bromwich was gutted completely, and burned down by arsonists responding to the events in Ayodhya. As per the temple history on its website, the structure was rendered unsafe after the complete collapse of the roof and the floor. However, the deities survived the fire, and this one miracle motivated the community to come together and rebuild the temple. Starting in 1993, the temple community began raising funds with the support of Hindus worldwide.
It was not only the Shree Krishna Mandir that was under attack.
Several attacks and arsons were reported from Birmingham, Coventry, and Bolton. In Coventry, petrol bombs were hurled at the temple before a rear window was broken to throw two more bombs further inside, causing damage.
In Birmingham, petrol bombs were also thrown at the temple, resulting in leaders of both communities. Hindus and Muslims, appealing for peace. The damage to the Shree Krishna Mandir was more than a million pounds then.
Hinduphobia, Thirty Years Later
More than thirty years later, the chairman of the Shri Sanatan Hindu Mandir in Wembley had to appeal to the Hindu community not to come to the temple premises on 25 September 2022, in the wake of the events in Leicester.
Citing a demonstration by those who wished to incite religious hatred, the chairman appealed to the community, saying that they must allow the police to do their job and not turn up on the premises believing they were defending the temple. Fortunately, no radical mob turned up.
Even in late August, Hinduphobes had employed the CVV playbook of ‘Claim, Victimisation, Vindictiveness’.
This time, the premise was a cricket match between India and Pakistan. It began with a claim that Indian fans chanted ‘Death to Muslims’ while walking back after the game and confronting someone from Pakistan. Then followed the victimisation that became the foundation for attacks on the Hindu community by radicalised mobsters. The vindictiveness finally surfaced after the second game between India and Pakistan, which the former lost.
The Indian American Muslim Council also employed the CVV playbook in August 2021, when they tweeted that only the Muslims were killed in the anti-CAA riots of New Delhi. They also claimed that a ‘Hindu Right’ group in Delhi was calling for the slaughtering of Muslims.
On being called out, the handle posted a corrected tweet two days later. In and around Leicester, everything remotely related to India, from cricket to festivities, was now labelled as events of the RSS and BJP, thus warranting attack under a false pretext.
How The Attacks In Leicester Unfolded
After India lost the game to Pakistan, the Hindu community was targeted by Islamists while it was celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi. Seeing the Hindu religious flag outside the house, Islamists threw eggs into the house through the front door, right where the members of the community were sitting alongside the Ganesh deity.
On being confronted, the Islamists threatened one of the boys from the community with a knife. Later in the day, the local police seized a van full of eggs. The boy, fortunately, escaped without a critical injury. A day later, both communities came together to appeal for peace and for sanity to prevail.
While the Hindu community chose to remain indoors, Islamists, also arriving from neighbouring towns and cities, gathered on the roads. Abusing the Hindu community, the attacks were carried out.
The community’s local Twitter handle, documenting the events, reported fifty attacks, including a Hindu male being stabbed. The madness continued to the next day. The Hindu symbols like ‘Om’, ‘Shubh Labh’, and Ganesha pictures were used to target specific families.
The attacks, even after repeated calls from the local police and senior members of the community, did not stop for the next few days.
The recent communal disturbance was attributed by one of the Imams to migrants from Daman and Diu who had moved to Leicester recently.
The saffron flag, a symbol of Hinduism since time immemorial, was labelled as RSS flag, and people were asked to take it down. The cycle of victimisation and vindictiveness was complete.
Things reached a tipping point on September 20. The ISKCON Leicester Temple President, Shri Pradyimna Das, issued a statement for peace while being surrounded by a group of Muslim leaders.
Citing the challenges that the two communities faced together, Das spoke of the harmony that had prevailed between them, and blamed the foreign extremist ideologies for the chaos that had unfolded in the last few days. Das demanded that the inciters of violence must leave the city, only falling into the trap of the Islamists blaming RSS.
Hindus online were quick to call out Das, blaming for succumbing under pressure, but in the larger scheme of things, what option did he have?
Hinduphobia, since the Shree Krishna Mandir was burned down in West Bromwich in 1992, has been conveniently cloaked by the South Asian identity, and the rhetoric of diversity and multiculturalism that suits the aggressors from Pakistan.
Even in India, most leaders have been too busy celebrating the astounding success of the diaspora in Europe to notice the underlying Hinduphobia. An unfortunate mistake.
The author sat down for a virtual call with a few members of the Hindu community, currently residing in the United Kingdom. A majority of them were born and raised in the United Kingdom, and hence, have a greater perspective on the underlying Hinduphobia within the English society.
Elaborating on the subject of Hinduphobia that is almost a taboo in their country of residence for the sake of political correctness, the members, choosing to be anonymous in the wake of the attacks by Islamists, stated their concerns that most media houses and leaders ignore.
It was not about what happened in Leicester, but how it was an eventual conclusion to the underlying tension that has prevailed for years.
And hence, several realities emerged in the course of the conversation.
Hinduphobia In Many Forms
The clashes over the cricket matches in the Asia Cup were not a one-off event, for clashes were reported even in 2017, following the final of the Champions Trophy that India lost to Pakistan.
A few police officers were injured while some suspects were rounded up. However, now the conversation has gone beyond cricket and has become about the RSS and the BJP.
The action-reaction theory is justified back home in India as well. On several debates on primetime television, panelists, in their mindless hatred for the Narendra Modi regime, have termed the Leicester attacks as a response to what they believe is Islamophobia practiced by the RSS and the BJP.
Such is the hatred amongst a few political analysts that they do not mind witnessing attacks against Hindus as long as it suits their political narrative. The challenge is further aggravated by a steady stream of misinformation and fake news.
Universities serve as a hub for serving misinformation and narratives on a platter. For instance, in the celebrated University of Cambridge, one of the debating clubs, known as ‘The Cambridge Majlis’ hosts debates that present an anti-Islamic perception of the Modi government.
In February 2021, they hosted an interactive session with the national spokesperson of the Congress party, Pawan Khera, conveniently ignoring the other side of the story. Another debate was held on CAA, citing how Modi’s India was not Gandhi’s India.
The narratives set in the universities have an impact on the ground as well.
A video clip surfaced recently where a violent mob of Islamists is seen abusing (in the vilest of curses) Prime Minister Modi and calling Hindus cow-piss drinkers.
In a video clipping, a Muslim man is seen chasing two Hindu women in his car, calling them out for being workers of the RSS and the BJP because they are dressed for the Navratra celebrations. In another video, a Muslim is seen threatening Hindus, stating that Muslims will break Hindus into several pieces.
One of the members also highlighted the quiet suppression of Hindu interests, especially on Kashmir.
Given Pakistan’s soft power push, the atrocities carried out in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir are not for deliberations or debates.
Further, even the Kashmiri Hindus face trouble elaborating on their exodus from the 1990s, given it is seen as an attempt to disrupt the communal harmony. Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files may have found an audience in the United Kingdom, but many continue to suppress its voice and the realities behind it.
It is not uncommon for Islamists to hijack Hindu voices and spaces as well.
One of the members of the community elaborated how some parts of Leicester were completely inaccessible for Hindus, and how many had been forced to move away from their homes, given the dominance of the community.
Another member recalled how before the gates of one of the temples in Birmingham, after a concentration of Muslim population in the area, garbage bags were thrown as an insult.
Harsher treatment is reserved for the Gujarati community in the United Kingdom.
Even during the attacks in Leicester, Hindus from the Daman and Diu region were singled out and blamed for the violence, even by some other communities from India.
What Explains The Unacknowledged Hinduphobia?
A diaspora that has contributed significantly to the wealth creation in United Kingdom; impeccable ties between New Delhi and London, minus any flips and flops as is the case with Canada, for instance; no visible baggage of the colonial era in the diplomatic relationship; Hindus occupying high offices both in political and corporate circles, and yet, why is the Hinduphobia in the country not only unacknowledged, but also rampant?
In the conversation with the members of the Hindu community, a few macro reasons surfaced.
One, the Hindus are caught in their trap of ‘harmony’. Labelled as a peaceful community, and rightfully so, the Hindu community rarely sees any mobilisation of groups to put their interests forward, especially when pitted against the Islamists.
As was the case with Das from ISKCON Leicester, the default move by the community is always to seek peace while suppressing or kicking the actual problem down the road. There is also the worry within the community of being termed as the aggressors, and hence the voluntary silence.
Two, the lack of temple-centric unity. As per a member of the community, the temples have been instrumental in getting people together for festivals and other cultural events, but have not served as centres for political unity, not so far.
In the past, communities have come together to rebuild temples, as was the case with Shree Krishna Mandir in West Bromwich, but beyond that, there is no uniting ideology. The hapless image of Das, surrounded by Islamists, while making a feeble apology vindicates this theory. The temples need to do more.
Three, the media there is either alarmed by the Charlie Hebdo episode or is too worried about being accused as an Islamophobe.
There is also the white man’s guilt that only increased post 9/11, pushing them to take a softer stance against the Muslim population, and even the immigrants from the Middle East. What else explains the slow action against the grooming gangs in the country?
For Hindus, however, an apologetic media circle only adds to the list of concerns as their interests are ignored routinely to ensure political correctness.
Four, the Hindu is not united. Either the Hindu is lost in the South Asian identity, or is too scattered in the economic pyramid to come together, or is worried about being called a bigot for uniting a community, or worst, fears being called an Islamophobe for raising their voice against Hinduphobia.
For the future, one key lesson from Leicester must be to discard the South Asian identity for an Indian and Hindu identity that is politically, culturally, and economically distant from Islamists. A peaceful Hindu assertion must be ushered for the Hindus, by the Hindus.
Five, for several reasons, the Government of India has not been able to exercise its soft power. While the trend is being reversed in the last eight years, there is a lot of ground that remains to be covered.
Many observers have remarked how Pakistan has been able to inflitrate the highest political corridors in the United Kingdom through a mix of soft power and diplomacy, furthering their anti-Hindu narrative, unlike India of pre-2014. The world is ready to embrace India’s perspective, but it is upto the government of the day to take this forward.
Leicester And Birmingham Were Not The Last Episodes
Speaking on the aftermath of the attacks on the Hindu community on Ganesh Chaturthi, one of the members remarked how Hindus were frightened by the idea of dressing up and going out for the Navratri celebrations, for Islamists may recognise them by their attire and attack them.
The events of Leicester have certainly dented the faith of the Hindu community in the region, but they must be backed by India’s geopolitical prowess.
For the Islamists, it is no longer about minor political differences.
For them, attacking innocent Hindus, even women and children, is equivalent to avenging the government in India they assume to be anti-minority. They are high on both misinformation and extremism. This is the new reality Hindus, globally, must get accustomed to, not only in the United Kingdom, but also in America and Canada.
For Mahatma Gandhi, this would have been an opportunity to advocate peaceful protests and amicable resolutions, but for Hindus today, this calls for an urgent political and economic assertion of the national and cultural identity.
This article first appeared in www.swarajyamag.com and it belongs to them.