Leicester communal clashes: British Indian among 3 in UK govt’s review panel

In September 2022, community tensions led to a spate of vandalism, assaults, and attacks on places of worship and other properties in Leicester.

London: Dr Samir Shah, an Indian-origin race relations expert has been named on a three-member panel set up by the UK government to independently review the unrest that took place in the city of Leicester last year as community groups clashed in the aftermath of an India-Pakistan Asia Cup cricket match in Dubai.

Shah, conferred a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) honour by the late Queen Elizabeth II in 2019 for services to heritage and television, will join fellow expert panellists to publish their findings by next year, the UK government said on Monday.

Shah, in his 70s, has experience conducting such reviews as a former Commissioner for the UK’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. He was also the former chair of the country’s independent race equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, for 10 years and was a member of the Holocaust Commission.

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“Leicester has a proud history of diversity, tolerance and community cohesion, which makes what happened last year all the more troubling,” said Lord Ian Austin, the chair of the review announced by the government in May.

“We want to listen to people in Leicester to understand last year’s events, what can be learned from them and how communities in the city can work together to prevent problems in future. It is, therefore, vital that the review is comprehensive and even-handed and that this aim is reflected in the panellists we appoint,” he said.

“The diverse panel brings together a wealth of experience and knowledge, which should result in an honest, frank and productive review,” he added.

Hilary Pilkington, Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester and Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences, whose research focus covers the study of youth participation, activism, stigmatisation and extremism in the UK, is another expert on the panel. They are joined by Dr Shaaz Mahboob, Head of Digital Development at NHS England and Trustee of British Muslims for Secular Democracy for 10 years until 2018.

In September 2022, community tensions led to a spate of vandalism, assaults, and attacks on places of worship and other properties in Leicester, in some cases highlighting divisions between different religious groups across the city and beyond.

The UK’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said that during the height of the unrest, the government worked closely with the local police force, Leicester City Council and other local partners to bring calm to the situation and protect communities from across the city. The Indian government had raised the issue diplomatically at the time after a temple in the city was among the sites vandalised in the clashes, which resulted in several arrests.

In May this year, UK Communities Secretary Michael Gove announced an independent review led by Lord Austin into the disorder to “build a thorough understanding” of the specific events that took place.

According to reports, at the time, there was an escalation of clashes in the city, with one of the UK’s largest South Asian origin populations, after an India-Pakistan Asia Cup cricket match in Dubai towards the end of August 2022.

The government has stated that the independent review panel will establish the facts of what took place over the period of unrest and a sequence of events; present an analysis of the causes of the unrest; make practical recommendations for how similar events may arise in future could be prevented; and set out proposals and ideas for strengthening social cohesion locally.

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