Are Hindu-Muslim Tensions in Leicester Actually Over a Cricket Match?

Hindu-Muslim tensions first began in Leicester, the UK, on 28 August. But is the recent violence only over a cricket match?

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Hindu-Muslim tensions first began in Leicester, the UK, on 28 August. But is the recent violence only over a cricket match?

This article was first reported in The Guardian.

Over the past month, conflicts between groups of Muslim and Hindu men have forced the police to launch a major operation in an attempt to restore calm. Many point to an India-Pakistan T20 cricket match on 28 August as the trigger of the unrest. After their team won the game, India fans in Leicester gathered and reportedly chanted antagonistic and offensive remarks about Pakistan.

However, Aina (a local journalist) suggests that this may not be as straightforward as a sporting feud that has gotten out of hand:

It seems like there were simmering tensions before this cricket match.”

She points to a case which occurred before the 28th, in which a young Muslim man alleged that he was assaulted by a Hindu gang. No one has been charged, but the allegations alone appear to have been enough to stoke further tensions.

In the weeks following the cricket match, seven disturbances in east Leicester have led to dozens of arrests. The tensions reached boiling point last weekend, when Leicestershire police received calls reporting 200 men gathering for an unauthorised protest. Officers scrambled to the scene.

Eyewitnesses claimed a group of Hindu men marched through Green Lane Road, where there are several Muslim-owned businesses. Residents said they heard the group chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, a holy Hindu chant that translates as “hail Lord Ram”. The phrase has in recent years been co-opted by Hindu extremists, and become associated with anti-Muslim violence in India. In Leicester, fights broke out, bottles were thrown, property was smashed and a religious flag was pulled off a Hindu temple. Over the weekend, multiple retaliatory marches and protests further escalated tensions.

Local residents told Aina they were very fearful:

One shopkeeper locked her door the next day and she only opened her shop door to let customers in. She told me that several of her friends who work along that street shut their business for the day because they were just scared of retaliation or further marches.”


The Hindu and Muslim communities in Leicester have peacefully coexisted for decades, and there is no clear explanation for this unprecedented hostility. The city’s mayor, Peter Soulsby, has partially blamed social media disinformation about recent events for stoking further division – and drawing people from outside the local area. Speaking to BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, Soulsby described the content he’s seen as “very, very, very distorting” and “some of it just completely lying about what had been happening between different communities”. Unverified stories and videos have been circulating far and wide in WhatsApp groups, causing further friction.

This disinformation has been seen by people across the country, some of whom reportedly came to Leicester in response to what they had seen online. A report by Aina, Rajeev Syal and Geneva Abdul revealed that almost half of those arrested on Monday came from outside the county.

Hindu nationalism?

Narendra Modi, the leader of India’s ruling party, the BJP, has been increasingly candid about his ethnonationalist aims for his country. His hardline stance has been accompanied by a significant rise in violence against Muslim and other non-Hindu groups in India. The Indian government has also shifted its policy towards the Indian diaspora, moving away from non-engagement, and instead endorsing the idea of a “global Indian family”.

The rise of Hindu nationalism in mainstream politics has led to the growth of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a rightwing, Hindu nationalist, paramilitary volunteer organisation. That has influenced the Indian diaspora, including the British-Indian community. “It’s the elephant in the room,” Aina says. “Concerns have been raised from the Muslim community about what they perceive to be this kind of RSS influence.” Seeing the hostile backlash to Aina’s own reporting on social media over the weekend was a stark reminder of the globalised nature of such threats.

Muslim residents of Leicester told Aina that while there had, of course, been scuffles in the city in the past, there have never been any major issues between the Hindu and Muslim community until now.

They attribute that to the migration of a recent wave of Indian Hindu migrants who, they claim, are bringing some RSS-inspired ideology with them,” Aina says.

The truth of that accusation is far from settled, with parts of the Hindu community, in turn, blaming Muslims for raising tensions. A video has been circulating online of a Hindu religious flag being set on fire, another video shows a flag being removed from a Hindu temple. But with religious leaders from both communities calling for calm in a joint press conference earlier this week, Leicester residents will be hoping there will be no further repeats of the ugly scenes from last weekend.

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