India beat arch-rivals Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday, following which hundreds of India cricket fans poured into the streets of the Belgrave area of Leicester — which is predominantly Indian-origin — waving the Indian flag, honking car horns and dancing to dhols.
A video, which has gone viral, shows one group of India fans, one wearing a Team Indian jersey, walking towards the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Melton Road, shouting “Pakistan Murdabad” at the other side of the road. A police officer can be seen arresting one person on the ground and then the video shows a group beating up a man and ripping off his shirt.
British Sikh journalist Sunny Hundal tweeted: “In Leicester extremist Hindutva groups go on the rampage in Leicester. Shocking stuff (sic)”, whilst an anonymous Twitter account tweeted: “As if it wasn’t enough in India, now we’ve got these Nazi lovers in the UK disrupting the harmony between different communities.”
However Dharmesh Lakhani, owner of Bobby’s Restaurant on Belgrave Road, told TOI: “The majority of the celebrations were positive and people were having a good evening celebrating India’s win. I am told that someone anti-India stamped on an Indian flag and the Indian fans thought that person was Pakistani and that infuriated the India supporters. This was an isolated incident in a celebration by thousands of people on Sunday night. It is absolute rubbish to say this was mob violence by Hindus.”
A member of the public and an officer were assaulted during the disorder, Leicestershire police said. A 28-year-old man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of assault and assaulting an emergency worker. He has since been released under investigation.
“We know there are concerns in the community and we are working to identify those responsible for the disorder and racist remarks after the cricket match,” an East Leicester police force spokesperson told TOI. “We are aware of the videos circulating on social media of racist and hateful chanting. We are taking these reports seriously and an investigation is underway to identify those responsible. We are treating this chanting as a hate crime.”
Uday Dholakia, former vice chairman of the Leicestershire police authority, said the violence was unprecedented but it had not damaged community cohesion. “These were young people who had no doubt been at the pubs. There are always tensions at football matches. This is part of being British,” he said, adding there were newer Indian communities in Belgrave from Daman and Diu and Portugal who were “more passionate” about football and cricket than those who had lived there for generations.
Councillor Hemant Bhatia said the violence had created anxiety within communities but the leaders of the Hindu and Muslim communities were keen to bring peace and calm to the city.
Claudia Webbe, MP for Leicester East, Keith Vaz’s former constituency, told TOI: “Like many Leicester East residents, I am concerned by reports of hate-filled clashes between India and Pakistan cricket fans in Leicester. It is vital that we work together to share the message of tolerance so that we can bring our communities together. Leicester is a shining example of how people from different cultures can live together side by side. Our diversity is what makes Leicester special. Above all else, we must recognise that there is more in common than that which divides us.”