Hindu and Jain Leaders in Leicester Boycott Just-Announced Independent Review into Communal Violence

Yesterday a letter was sent to the City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby from the “Hindu and Jain Leaders of Leicester” which announced that they would be boycotting the newly launched review process that the council had set up to examine the recent communal unrest in Leicester. They explained:

“The announcement of the review process disturbed the festive celebration of the Hindu New Year on 26th October. This announcement came despite Sir Peter Soulsby’s (City Mayor of Leicester) promise to leaders of the Hindu Community on 14th October, that he would wait until the Diwali and New Year’s festive period was concluded. Leaders of the Hindu community were left very disappoint in his broken promise.

“Hindu leaders were dealt a further blow learning the review will be led by Chris Allen, an export on Islamophobia. His recent comment on Twitter explicitly ruling out Islamist extremism, has cast strong doubt on his suitability to lead the view. Though we don’t cast any judgement as to the presence of any extreme Islamist influence in the unrest, to assert a conclusion ahead of the review, sheds [sic] Allen’s inability to remain independent.

With Peter Soulsby yet to apologise or retract his recent statement on Hindutva being the cause of the unrest, it leaves the leadership of the Hindu community of Leicester little confidence in the process. How is this review independent when conclusive opinions are already being peddled by those commissioning and those leading this review?” (October 27)

Certainly, it does seem strange that Soulsby picked Dr Allen to undertake the review (especially considering the unusually critical nature of his earlier reporing on the violence), so there is not doubting that there does need to be an explanation as to how Soulsby took this decision. But it is interesting to note that the signatories of the boycott letter itself seem to be particularly perturbed by the fact that both Allen and Soulsby have previously suggested that the far-right nationalist ideology known as Hindutva may have played a contributing “part” in the recent violence; which is hardly a controversial point of view. It is also noteworthy that the first person to share this boycott letter on social media happens to be an influencial proponent of Hindutva ideology, the individual in question being Satish K. Sharma, the former General Secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples.

Additional notes

To watch the interview with Sir Peter Soulsby that featured on Channel 4 news (on October 13) where Soulsby suggests that Hindutva ideology is “in part” to blame for the violence, see here: “Leicester mayor orders inquiry into violent unrest.” This television broadcast also contained an interview with one of the people who helped organise the controversial march of 300 Hindus that played an important role in fuelling the recent outbreak of violence. For details of my earlier review of recent events, see “A timeline of the violence in Leicester” – an article which provides further context to help understand the relevance of accusations that have been made against recent migrants from Daman and Diu.

Earlier this morning (on October 28), BBC Radio Leicester interviewed Sanjiv Patel, a spokesperson for Hindu and Jain temples across Leicester, where they discussed the letter calling for a boycott of the review. At the tail- end of this interview, Sanjiv went further than the statement itself saying that “Chris Allen can say whatever he wants from here, he is conflicted and has made his views clear and the same for other members of his department as we believe that the whole of the University of Leicester is conflicted.”  (On April 30, 2022, Sanjiv Patel was interviewed by Keith Vaz within the pages of Asian Voice, and as the tweet below demonstrates, Patel (like Vaz) is a happy supporter of the Hindu nationalist, Hindutva-promoting government of Narendra Modi.)

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