Leicestershire Police still under fire for award to divisive Hindu preacher

Leicestershire Police continue to come under pressure from Muslim groups after it gave an award to a Hindu nationalist preacher who has been dubbed an anti-Muslim extremist.

Calls are now being made to revoke the award given to Dhirendra Krishna Shastri after he spoke at an event in a Hindu community centre in Leicester.

The self-proclaimed spiritual healer referred to India as a “Hindu Rashtra” (pure Hindu state), a rhetoric often used by Hindu extremists advocating for a state without Muslims or Christians. In India, Hindutva gangs use similar slogans when attacking Muslims and Christians.

The Hindu nationalist is said to have a history of making incendiary comments about Muslims.

The accolade drew criticism from politicians and members of the Muslim community.

It comes against the backdrop of sectarian violence in India and the Indian government’s ongoing crackdown on religious minorities, particularly Muslims.

The Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) advocacy group raised concerns that Shastri’s presence could escalate tensions between Muslims and Hindus in Leicester and questioned the police’s actions.

“Shastri’s reprehensible calls for violence against Muslims, advocating for bulldozing in reference to Muslim homes, & his vision of a Muslim-free Indo-Pak region reveal the extent of his dangerous beliefs,” the organisation said.

“Allowing Shastri’s presence and influence in the city, along with a commendation, will undoubtedly fuel further tensions between Hindus and Muslims, undoing any progress towards restoring cohesiveness,” it added.

Leicester hit the headlines last September over the tensions among the city’s Hindu and Muslim populations.  

UK security sources recently revealed that troubles in the region were escalated by Indian political activists associated with Narendra Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist party.

Shastri’s views go against “unity and harmony”

Claudia Webb, a member of parliament for Leicester East, said: “[The] framed award certificate, was widely circulated both across the UK and India,” Webbe told Rob Nixon, the chief constable of Leicestershire police.

“This is viewed amongst many in the community and internationally as an endorsement of Mr Shasti’s views. This causing additional and significant disquiet, unrest and tension,” she added.

The MCB said it has written to the chief constable about the recognition given to Shastri.  

“Mr. Shastri’s public image as someone who promotes views that are divisive and harmful to Muslim communities goes against the very essence of fostering unity and harmony,” said the MCB’s Secretary-General Zara Mohammed in the letter.  

“I acknowledge the statement that has been issued to offer clarity on this matter, however, I must emphasise the strength of sentiment this award has generated,” added the letter.

The backlash forced the police to issue a brief statement, which emphasised their intention to acknowledge the assistance provided by organisers of the event, which was marred by scuffles.

“Therefore a thank you was given to those involved to show that the help given was appreciated in what was a complex and busy gathering in East Leicester,” said Leicestershire Police.

“This should not be confused with any more formal awards or commendations that are issued by Leicestershire Police, but rather as it was intended, a thank you to those who helped keep the public safe.”

However, many are still questioning the nature of the recognition and are demanding an investigation.

The United Kingdom Indian Muslim Council (UKIMC) said it is a matter of ‘deep concern’ that the Home Office and police have done little to stop hate preachers from addressing gatherings in the UK.  

“In the last week, there have been multiple speeches by one such hate-monger in London and Leicester, Dhirendra Krishna Shastri, who raised the same slogans hailing India as a Hindu nation in Leicester,” said the group.  

It added that the police did not conduct due diligence and checks on ‘controversial figures’, which some could perceive as ‘condoning his rhetoric.’

It wants the UK authorities to do more to stop hate preachers from entering the UK and for Leicestershire Police to revoke the award.

Image: Twitter screengrab


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