The Devil’s Advocate: Divide and ‘Cool’ in Leicester?

If they intend to paint foreign imports as savages again, all you need to do is weigh events against the general culture of football hooliganism in the country for one

Manik Sharma September 19, 2022 19:19:44 IST
The Devil’s Advocate: Divide and ‘Cool’ in Leicester?

The tension, which started after India beat Pakistan in an Asia Cup game, has now snowballed into a clash between the Hindu and Muslim communities in Leicester. Image courtesy Twitter

Days after the longest-serving monarch of an empire that oversaw the plunder and loot of several countries, a disconcerting reminder of the many wounds the British Empire left India with, surfaced. The city of Leicester, in the UK has been tense, because of violent clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs that should really feel like déjà vu in a country that has for decades pretended it neither orchestrated that divide, nor handled it hastily in the form of the partition – albeit thousands of miles away. History has a weird way of biting back, and now that the fault lines have been drawn on British soil, you kind of have to wonder if the grieving monarchy or the resident but-we-gave-them-the-railways contingent will propose a partition-like solution to a familiar problem. Don’t count on it!

Things are just easier when it’s someone else’s pie you have to carve, I guess. Let’s just acknowledge outright that this is not a great look for NRI Indians, or for that matter Pakistanis. The knee-jerk reaction to this won’t be the re-evaluation of the British Empire’s historical records of socially poisoning far-off civilisations. It would instead be increased restrictions on borders, strenuous visa processes and stunted opportunities. No country would ideally want to import such problems, but in the case of the British, these are also problems they kind of helped seed and nurture on foreign lands. They are only just getting to bite the fruit they themselves fertilised.

Maybe the British government can turn to a few chapters from their ‘obscure’ history. Especially to the ones that are masterclasses in sowing tension between religious groups, allowing them selective franchise and then letting them think the worst things about each other, until push comes to violent shove and you get the hell out of there. Can anyone really deliver a better lesson in ‘divide and rule’ than the original proponents of the vilest of political tactics? Not really. I mean if drawing on experience was actually as valuable as most corporate HRs will have you believe this situation is actually already in the best hands possible. The British know how to handle the falling apart of social fabric, religious harmony etc because they cooked up the world’s first few recipes of overseeing civil strife for self-benefit, with, of course, a woke book of sonnets and a glass of wine in hand.

The British are not new to violence either. If they intend to paint foreign imports as savages again, all you need to do is weigh events against the general culture of football hooliganism in the country for one. Yes, there is a passionate sports angle to it, but it is offers alongside the curry-cut perfectness of a globally popular sport, a dastardly sight of British ego, racism and quite possibly, stupidity. The Empire might have, technically, closed shop but it still runs in the veins of the many people who have inherited its disconcerting history of xenophobia and unflinching violence.

The Partition was rushed, necessitated by the British govt’s rush to escape a land they had robbed to within an inch of its resources but in Leicester, I suppose things will be trickier. You can’t possibly divide the neighbourhood into Hindi and Muslim ghettos, although if you wish to then nobody perhaps holds deeper expertise in the exercise than the British. You can’t possibly wish away an issue your forefathers helped create, amplify and cement. There is possibly no way to deal with religious antagonism on your soil, without confronting, the role the Empire has played in fermenting it outside the country. It’s almost like a sick, demeaning joke that your spent years laughing at until it entered your home and made you its subject. Just kicks differently, this change of direction.

There is nothing condonable about the violence in Leicester, but if the British paint it as some third-world anomaly that they have nothing to do with and are appalled by then well, ignorance truly is bliss, racism is style and colonisation is a fantasy poem written by Milton where people get together once every year to build houses out of candy. The hardest lessons are learned at possibly the harshest of the times. The British government can and probably will feel aggrieved that they have been handed a problem they didn’t create but then welcome to our lives, three centuries ago. Let’s see how the famed bureaucratic approach to sensitive issues that the British routinely employ plays out this time. Will there be a division of territory, of institutional resources, of currency, last minute death buses, overnight migrations, blocking of youtube channels, segregation of Biryani? Unlikely. But probably the only way to familiarise yourself with history, is to find yourself in a situation where it becomes inescapable.

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