Hindu man thanks Muslim activist who stepped in to save him during night of Leicester violence
Although from two different communities, the men came together to reflect on recent clashes in the Midlands city. “Everyone’s losing, there are no winners,” one said.
A Hindu man who needed stitches after his head was slashed during violence in Leicester has thanked the Muslim activist who stepped in to save him.
Video of a group of Muslim men attacking Ram Keshwala, 32, in his car circulated online.
In the footage, men can be heard repeating a false rumour that Mr Keshwala had tried to run over the crowd that had taken to the streets following a Hindu march.
After smashing his car, a man can be seen trying to drag Mr Keshwala out of the vehicle before Muslim community activist Majid Freeman steps in to say “leave him” and closes the car door to stop the attack.
Speaking together at a cafe in Leicester, the two men recall what happened on 17 September, when violence spread across the city.
“He saved my life,” Mr Keshwala says.
“Because of that, I’m still here.”
‘Anyone could get hurt’
Mr Freeman recalls: “It was just mayhem. Everything was happening so fast.
“Other people were trying to come, and I was just shouting ‘stop, it’s done now’.
“But I don’t think there was anyone who was physically stopping it because the situation was so hostile… anyone could get hurt.”
Several people were injured during clashes in the city that day, including 16 police officers who were targeted with bottles as they tried to separate the two sides.
Tensions that had been simmering for weeks in the city erupted between a group of Hindus and a group of Muslims.
Both sides accused the other of attacks on their community.
‘Who are these masked youngsters?’
Bilal Mangera, 33, was also injured.
He suffered several puncture wounds and ended up in hospital at the same time as Mr Keshwala. He’d gone to support Muslim businesses after he’d heard they were coming under attack.
Meeting Mr Keshwala for the first time, they both agree they want to see peace restored in their city, where for many decades the two communities have lived side by side.
“We need to find the root cause, that’s the first thing we need to find out,” Mr Mangera says.
“Who are these youngsters who are coming, masked up, and instigating things?
“How do we control the youth that want to take revenge?”
Both sides have found misinformation online that fuels the tension.
Since his attack, an image of Mr Keshwala with blood covering his face was retweeted hundreds of times.
The tweet says “another Hindu thug caught lackin'” and includes a hashtag RSS, which stands for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an Indian right wing Hindu nationalist organisation.
Mr Keshwala says he’s being falsely accused of supporting the RSS and feels scared when he goes out.
“Right now still I don’t feel safe,” he said.
“I might get attacked by people because some people don’t know I’m innocent.”
There are fears on both sides.
“The moment everyone’s looking over their shoulders,” Mr Freeman says.
“Everyone’s losing, there are no winners.”