London Diary: Communal disharmony in 'little India'
While the rest of Britain was trying to put up a show of national unity as a mark of respect to the late Queen, in Leicester the news was dominated by sectarian clashes between Hindu and Muslim groups
Disharmony in Li’l India
While the rest of Britain was trying to put up a show of national unity as a mark of respect to the late Queen, in Leicester, aka “Little India” thanks to its predominantly Indian-origin population, the news was dominated by sectarian clashes between Hindu and Muslim groups.
Police and local leaders said they were “baffled” by the sudden outbreak of violence in a city which takes pride in maintaining good community relations. The trigger appeared to have been the notorious India-Pakistan cricket rivalry. Context: Asia cricket cup series played in Dubai. When India failed to make it to the finals, Pakistani groups were allegedly seen celebrating and later when Pakistan lost to Sri Lanka in the finals, there were reportedly “retaliatory” celebrations among Indians.
Clashes broke out after a video was circulated online of a flag being pulled down outside a Hindu temple amid unverified claims of an attack on a mosque. Leicester’s mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, said tensions were fuelled by “some very distorted social media” and “a lot of people who came in from outside”.
“Across the Hindu and Jain community and with our Muslim brothers and sisters and leaders we are consistently saying calm minds, calm heads,” said Sanjiv Patel, who represents Hindu and Jain temples across Leicester.
Suleman Nagi of the Federation of Muslims said that people from both communities had lived peacefully in Leicester for decades and the disturbance came as a surprise.
Keeping the UK together
After the long goodbye to the Queen, Britain has started life under a new management amid questions about the future of British monarchy and Britain’s relations with its former colonies. The Commonwealth, which she saw as central to London’s post-colonial relevance to large swathes of Asia and Africa, is being keenly watched for where it goes from here in the post-Queen era.
The man who has had the “longest apprenticeship in history” while awaiting his turn to ascend the throne has at last the chance to prove his leadership skills. King Charless III takes over at a difficult time for Britain both at home and in relation to its waning role on the world stage, especially after Brexit, with even Commonwealth countries drifting away from its orbit—and towards potentially more useful alliances.
But his biggest challenges are at home. Apart from the hard slog of earning public affection given he is not the most popular person, he faces the existential task of keeping the United Kingdom together amid growing clamour for Scottish independence, and, in Northern Ireland, a lingering distrust of British monarchy for its partisan role in the bloody civil war between the Unionists and Irish republicans.
The Queen went the extra mile to build bridges with Edinburgh and Belfast. Will the King be able to reboot her charm offensive?
The King and India
Remember the “historic” kiss that Bollywood actress Padmini Kolhapure planted on the then bachelor Prince Charles’s cheek during a visit to India in 1980, which spawned headlines both in India and the UK?
Well, that still sort of defines his relations with India which he has visited as many as 10 times over the years—and where he celebrated his 71st birthday in 2019. He is attracted to Yoga and Ayurveda, and in 2018, he hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Science Museum in London to launch a new Ayurvedic Centre of Excellence.
Message: India has nothing to worry over the change of guards at the Palace.
A Republican View...
Amid the public outpouring of grief over the Queen’s death, The Times sent its staunch republican correspondent Robert Crampton to record his own feeling. Here’s his report:
‘Now I know how non-sport fans feel when the hype and hysteria build around an England football match. For sure, 20 million of us tune in. Which means 47 million don’t. When I read about “a national outpouring of grief and sadness”, I’m sorry, but I don’t feel it. I suppose, from a staunch Republican, you would expect nothing else.
‘But not only do I not feel this grief, I don’t see it either. Beyond my own nonreaction, I simply do not recognise the supposed national mood as it is being described in the media. I spent yesterday morning and Sunday afternoon on the Mall, at the Palace and patrolling around St James’s Park, and I didn’t see one person in tears. Not one. I think we’re more sensible than that. When a 96-year-old dies, even if it’s your own granny, we know that the occasion does not call for Old Testament weeping and gnashing of teeth. Instead, you say things like, “She had a good knock”, “A life well-lived”, and, all too often — although happily not in the Queen’s case, as far as I know — “It came as a merciful release”.’
Bigger than Hollywood
Crisis? What crisis? This is the question you’re likely to hear in Britain’s film circles even as the rest of the country is in the dumps. The reason is a growing demand for British film expertise and infrastructure. Apparently, Britain is on course to become “bigger than Hollywood” as developers rush here to build film studios. Companies like Amazon are investing heavily in production facilities.
At least 20 new studios are in various stages of planning and construction, which would mean there is a minimum of 56 sites where blockbuster film and television shoots can take place, The Times reported.
According to an analysis, there will be more studio facilities and square footage of studio space in the UK within two years than the whole of Los Angeles if plans remain on course. Amen.
And, lastly, King Charles has been filmed throwing a fit over a faulty fountain pen handed to him to sign a visitors’ book in Northern Ireland.
“Oh god, I hate this! Oh look, it’s going everywhere. I can’t bear this bloody thing… every stinking time,” he is seen fuming after the pen leaks.
It was the second incident of “pen rage” in recent days. On a previous occasion, he impatiently called officials to move a pen holder and inkwell that appeared to get in his way as he signed papers officially proclaiming him the king.