Leicester clashes: UK opposition leader says, ‘We must fight Hinduphobia’

Following communal clashes in Leicester and Birmingham after an India-Pakistan cricket match, the UK’s opposition Labour Party vowed to combat hate crimes of all sorts in its first straight use of the word ‘Hinduphobia’. 

Speaking to hundreds of British Indians on Wednesday night at one of Europe’s largest Navratri celebrations in London, Labour leader Keir Starmer said he was committed to halting “divisive politics” and extremist forces using social media to sow division among communities.

According to several diaspora organisations in the UK, the unrest in Leicester last month was a manifestation of Hinduphobia or hate crimes against Hindus, which were made worse by false information on social media. 

Starmer declared to a loud applause, “Hinduphobia has absolutely no place in our society anywhere and we must all fight this together.” 

“I know that many people are targeted based on their religion and there’s been a rise in hate crimes in recent years. I’m so tired of our divisive politics. I’m saddened by the division we have seen on the streets of Leicester and Birmingham in recent weeks; violence and hatred spread by extremists exploiting social media. We must all together stand firm against all attempts to spread hate,” he said.

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The opposition leader noted that it was his first time attending Dussehra celebrations in London and spoke of the deeper significance of Navratri as embodied in Goddess Durga’s resilience and strength, which signifies the importance of the female divine and women’s empowerment. Starmer has been quite obviously trying to reverse his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn’s stance towards India and its diaspora perceived as less India-friendly. 

After ’12 long years’, the Labour Party would be the government on the side of the people, said Starmer, criticising the ruling Conservative Party for bringing the nation to the brink of collapse. The opposition party has been preparing for the UK’s upcoming general election, which is scheduled for roughly 2024, and seeking to take advantage of the recent bounce in opinion polls amid declining Tory popularity over an ongoing economic crisis.

(with inputs from agencies)