Agent Orange

The toxic business of OpIndia’s anti-journalism

01 December, 2022


SOON AFTER the Indian men’s cricket team beat Pakistan in the Asia Cup, on 28 August, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate on the Golden Mile, a street in the Leicester suburb of Belgrave that is known for its Indian restaurants and shops, as well as for hosting the largest Diwali celebrations outside India. Such post-match gatherings were not unusual in the Hindu-majority suburb. In June 2017, after Pakistan beat India in the final of the Champions Trophy, supporters of the two teams clashed on the Golden Mile, throwing bottles at each other and at the police. Two years later, when India beat Pakistan in the World Cup, the aftermath was peaceful, characterised, according to the Leicester Mercury, by “the sounds of whistles, car horns and cheering.”

This time, however, there was an edge to the proceedings. Tensions between Leicester’s South Asian communities had been rising over the past few months. Darshna Soni, a home affairs correspondent at Channel 4, who grew up in Leicester, told me that although Hindus and Muslims in the city lived in separate neighbourhoods and rarely intermarried, they “always got along well.” However, she said, recent Hindu immigrants from Daman and Diu—who are entitled to Portuguese passports because of the union territory’s colonial history and had migrated to Leicester in large numbers shortly before the United Kingdom left the European Union—were more confrontational with local Muslims. On 22 May, a Muslim teenager was allegedly attacked by a group of Hindu men. The police’s slow response to the incident and initial refusal to treat it as a hate crime, Soni said, exacerbated the situation. “The Muslim men were like, ‘The police aren’t doing anything. We have to protect our own.’” (A spokesperson for the Leicestershire Police told me that its investigation into the incident remains open.) Sunny Hundal, a journalist who has covered South Asian communities in Britain for two decades, told me that many Hindus harboured grievances about unsubstantiated rumours of “Muslim gangs beating up our crews and preying on Hindu women.”

Videos circulating on social media after the match showed India supporters chanting “Pakistan Murdabad”—death to Pakistan—and fights breaking out in the area. “There were reports of Hindu boys driving past the mosque, beeping their horns late at night, antagonising people,” Soni said. “Some boys were saying that groups of Muslim boys had confronted them, driven past their cars, called them names.” A Sikh man who tried to stop the sloganeering was beaten up, as was an emergency worker.