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Muslim protest against Ritambhara's visit to UK temple turns violent, 1 held

By Aditi Khanna
September 21, 2022 18:41 IST
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A ”minor disorder” during a protest outside a Hindu temple in the city of Birmingham involving fireworks targeted at police officers has resulted in a man's arrest and stop and search powers being deployed, the UK police said on Wednesday.

Photograph: ANI on Twitter

Videos of Tuesday's protest outside Durga Bhawan temple on Spon Lane in Smethwick area of the West Midlands city were circulating on social media overnight, with groups of masked men seen shouting and hurling items. Police officers could be seen holding and pulling some of these masked men trying to scale the temple fence.

”Following a protest gathering in Smethwick last night (September 20), there was some minor disorder and one person was arrested,” West Midlands police said in a statement.

 

”We had a pre-planned police presence near the temple in Spon Lane where fireworks and missiles were thrown towards some of our officers. Thankfully no one was injured,” the police said, adding that it is also looking into reports of a ”small number” of cars being damaged.

The 18-year-old man arrested on suspicion of possessing a knife remains in custody for questioning on Wednesday.

”We are continuing to provide a visible police presence, working closely with faith leaders and partners across the community to provide reassurance. We will continue to monitor the situation locally and across the region,” the police said.

The protest was called by local Muslim groups reportedly against a planned visit of a Hindu activist from India to the temple in Birmingham, which the police had announced earlier on Tuesday had been cancelled.

”We understand this (protest) is in relation to concerns around a speaker at the temple in Spon Lane, but we're informed the event has been cancelled and this person is not staying in the UK,” local Sandwell police posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

The speaker was believed to be Sadhvi Ritambhara, founder of Param Shakti Peeth, who was to travel to the UK from India. However, the protest went ahead despite announcements that any such planned talk was not taking place.

The clashes in Birmingham follow ”serious disorder” between Hindu and Muslim groups in the eastern England city of Leicester in the wake of an India-Pakistan cricket match at the end of last month. It has resulted in 47 arrests over the past few weeks and on Tuesday, community leaders gathered outside a mosque in the city to appeal for harmony.

The Indian high commission in London issued a strong condemnation of the attacks on Indian diaspora communities in Leicester on Monday and this was followed by the Pakistan high commission in London issuing its own condemnation of attacks on its diaspora on Tuesday.

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Aditi Khanna in London
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