British newspaper ‘Daily Mail’ has claimed that the violent ethnic clashes that took part in Leicester, United Kingdom last year were allegedly “stoked by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party”. Daily Mail report points to the BJP’s ideology of Hindu nationalism, which prioritizes the interests of the Hindu majority and has been criticized for marginalizing religious and ethnic minorities. The report highlighted, “Those elements close to Indian Prime Minister Modi’s BJP are suspected of having incited British Hindus to confront Muslim youths in last summer’s explosive riots in Leicester.”
A UK security force member said that there was evidence of BJP-linked activists using cloud WhatsApp groups to encourage Hindi protesters to take on the streets. The report further says, “But the source warned that this was only the ‘most egregious’ example of Indian Hindu nationalists using private social media posts to interfere in the UK.
He warned: So far, it’s mainly local politics – Modi and his BJP doing that they would do in Gujarat [Mr Modi’s home state] to get this or that local councillor elected.’” The claims could provoke a diplomatic storm between London and New Delhi at a time when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – himself a practising Hindu – is trying to seal a lucrative post-Brexit trade deal with India. Last summer’s ethnic disturbances in Leicester followed months of simmering tensions between newly-arrived Hindu immigrants and the city’s settled Muslim residents, tarnishing its reputation as a beacon of racial harmony in Britain. Violent clashes broke out between Hindu and Muslim youths after an India-Pakistan cricket match in late August, grabbing international media attention, particularly in India where it was spun as Muslims attacking Hindu residents. Daily Mail was told that India-based BJP activists then started to issue messages and memes which were widely circulated within WhatsApp groups amongst Hindus in Leicester. Since the India-Pakistan cricket match on August 28, there were several nights of protests in Leicester until September 22, with youths marching on the streets shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’, which has become a rallying cry of the Hindu Right in India. There were reports of attacks on Muslims and their homes, as well as attacks and vandalism against Hindu temples and homes. The security source told Daily Mail that the alleged interference appeared to be part of Modi’s desire to pose as the leader of Hindus across the world. After last year’s riots, several studies were done examining the role of social media in stoking the Leicester disturbances. A report by US-based Network Contagion Research Institute also showed evidence of so-called bot-farms operating out of India, which were retweeting messages on the Leicester disturbances on an industrial scale.