Conservative MP Blaming ‘Islamist Extremists’ for Leicester Violence Funded by Organisations Tied to Hindutva Militants
Bob Blackman, who is the executive secretary of the influential 1922 Committee, has had a number of visits to India hosted by pro-RSS groups
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A Conservative MP who has written to the Home Secretary blaming “Islamist extremists” for the recent violence between Muslims and Hindus in cities such as Leicester has funding ties to far-right Hindutva followers supportive of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as the BJP’s parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – a Hindu nationalist paramilitary volunteer network linked to anti-Muslim violence in India.
Bob Blackman – who represents Harrow East and is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus – has received more than £20,200 from groups directly linked to these organisations.
Recent weeks have seen more than 500 young Hindu and Muslim men clashing with each other and police in Leicester, resulting in 20 arrests and 25 police being officers injured. After visiting local community leaders and police, Suella Braverman vowed that “disorder and thuggery” would face “the full force of the law” and pledged to “restore safety and harmony”.
However, in his letter to Braverman last Friday, Blackman – who is also the executive secretary of the Conservative Party’s influential 1922 Committee – portrayed the unrest as a case of violence instigated solely by Muslims.
He referred to “appalling attacks on Hindus in Leicester, Birmingham and elsewhere in the UK” – rather than acknowledging attacks by both Hindu and Muslim extremists in the clashes.
Analysis by Byline Times of donations received by Blackman, recorded in the parliamentary register of interests, shows his long-standing ties with far-right Hindu nationalist organisations – some of which have been directly linked to anti-Muslim violence. He received the donations between 2016 and 2019, mostly to fund visits to India hosted by pro-RSS groups.
Under the leadership of BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014, widespread concerns have been raised about the persecution of religious minorities – Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others – in India, the world’s largest democracy.
As the political wing of the RSS, the BJP is a far-right nationalist political movement associated with ‘Hindutva’ ideology. This promotes a purist strain of Hindu nationalism, positing Indian national culture and identity as inseparable from the Hindu religion. The RSS calls for an exclusively Hindu nation state of India.
Gujarat Riot Connection
In February 2019, Blackman received £1,800 from the pro-BJP International Siddhashram Shakti Centre in Harrow to fund a trip to Mumbai, India.
The year before, he received £11,300 from the Indian-branch of the Centre to visit Ahmedabad and Delhi to “meet with political figures in India”.
The International Siddhashram Shakti Centre was founded by Shri Rajrajeshwar Guruji, who has close ties with senior BJP officials including the late Lalubhai Parekh, vice-president of the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) and Kuldeep Shekhawat, OFBJP president. Byline Times contacted the Centre for comment.
The Centre’s Harrow branch recently hosted Vijay Rupani, chief BJP minister of Gujarat from 2016 to 2021. In 2019, Rupani declared that “Muslims have 150 countries to go to, Hindus have only India”. In 2020, Rupani justified the role of his predecessor as Gujarat’s chief minister, Modi, in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
It is widely recognised that, as chief minister of the state, Modi ‘allowed’ the anti-Muslim riots to take place, which resulted in the killings of an estimated 1,000 Muslims. At least 20,000 Muslim homes were destroyed and at least 150,000 people were displaced. Modi’s role in the riots led the UK’s Labour Government to institute a diplomatic boycott against him – which was ended by the Conservative-led Government in 2012 to boost bilateral “trade and investment”.
In February 2017, Blackman also received £4,000 from the Indian High Commission in London – which formally represents Modi’s Government in the UK – to fund his trip to New Delhi, aimed at developing “understanding of Indian policy aims” and to “meet key decision-makers in the Indian Government”.
Blackman also travelled to India in March 2016, a trip partly-funded by a pro-RSS NGO. The Art of Living Foundation’s UK and Bangalore branches, along with several other donors, together gave Blackman more than £1,100 for flights, meals and accommodation to visit Delhi.
Although the Art of Living Foundation operates as an educational and humanitarian organisation promoting yoga meditation across 156 countries, its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was accused in 2014 of leveraging the charity’s funds for electoral purposes in support of Modi and the BJP.
Shankar is a long-time Modi apologist who has vehemently defended Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots. He is also an old RSS cadre who had attended RSS programmes for many years. Shankar had also reportedly supported the idea of building a Hindu temple over the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, India, which had been demolished in 1992 by a Hindutva mob.
Shanka has denied supporting the BJP but has admitted his involvement in the RSS.
Blackman received another £2,000 donation for travel to India in April 2016, from the UK branch of the RSS-affiliated charity Sewa International – the international welfare wing of the RSS which provides a formal charitable structure for its volunteer members. It is directly linked to anti-Muslim violence.
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Blackman visited Sewa projects in India to “meet with trustees, volunteers and political figures”, according to the register of interests.
Back in August 2002, the late Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn resigned from his role as a patron of Sewa International after discovering that it operates as “a front for controversial militant Hindu organisations” which harbours a “racist and anti-Muslim agenda”. He added at the time, according to Birmingham’s Sunday Mercury newspaper: “I very much regret ever having been part of this racist organisation.”
According to the UK-based human rights network, Awaaz South Asia Watch, Sewa International’s “main purpose is to raise funds for and support a distinct family of organisations associated with the extremist RSS”.
Lord Patel’s resignation was prompted after reports emerged that officials in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh had banned Sewa Bharti, a charity partly-funded by Sewa International’s Leicester entity. The officials cited intelligence reports showing that Sewa Bharti had planned to “stir racial hatred” in Ayodhya. Sewa International was also providing funds to build Hindu temples in Gujarat.
The pro-RSS stance of the Sewa network of charities has been well-documented by journalist Pieter Friedrich.
Sewa International has denied all allegations.
Bob Blackman MP, the Conservative Party and the International Siddhashram Shakti Centre have been contacted for comment.