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Faraz had strict orders for his son when he learnt about his visit to a mosque not too far from London Bridge on Saturday. “Wear the Peshawari suit I bought you, but avoid the taqiyah (cap). Why attract unnecessary attention,” the Afghan-origin security in-charge at one of the gates outside Edgbaston told his son. A day later, as the rest of England mourns those killed in the attack, Faraz is relieved that his son is safe.
As he keeps an eye on Indian and Pakistani fans who head to the stadium with bugles, dhols and various other items, Faraz says things are about to get a lot tougher for British Asians in their adopted land. He says they will have to be prepared to be looked at and treated differently, if not with a tinge of suspicion.
“I just went on a visit to Afghanistan for seven days, and then went to Pakistan for five days. When I returned, I was taken aside and interrogated. This despite my passport showing that I’ve lived here since 1992,” he says. The fact that he changed his plans at the last minute and returned two days later than scheduled did not help.
“There are certain areas in the country where we, and by that I mean Afghans and Pakistanis, suffer racial abuse. For them, we are all ‘Pakis’. When there’s a terror attack like this, being brown-skinned, even if you are Indian, raises suspicions,” he adds.
Faraz’s daughter is a field investigator, whose job is to collect forensic data and deal with murderers and thugs alike. But when he wanted to send her money while he was visiting Pakistan, she asked him not to. “Her accounts get scanned routinely because of her background and she was worried that any transaction from South Asia could lead to her being questioned,” he says.
British Asians make up a big chunk of England’s demography. And while Faraz paints quite a grave picture, not everyone with a sub-continent lineage agrees that terror incidents like the London attack affect them that way.
“It’s about thinking positively. If you think you’ll be looked at differently, then you will be. I was born and brought up here, and I won’t say people judge me for the colour of my skin or from where my ancestors hail,” says a Pakistani fan.
Sitting next to him are a couple of Indian fans who are waiting for the national anthem to start. They scoff at the idea of being singled out. “How does it matter what we look like. We sound as English as the rest of them,” says one.
Not surprisingly, security measures for the eight-team Champions Trophy were stepped up considerably. According to the International Cricket Council, in the wake of the London attack, all team hotels across three venues went into lockdown as cricket’s governing body promised to review its security “in line with the threat levels”.
“Following last night’s incident all team hotels went into lockdown and teams, match officials and staff were all quickly accounted for. The enhanced security around venues implemented following the Manchester attack remains in place, this includes significantly enhanced police and security for today’s match,” the ICC said. Consequently at Edgbaston, everyone who entered the stadium was scanned more closely. Even BCCI’s acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary was stopped outside, and needed someone to have a word with the security officials to let him through.
Officer Evans, one of the many police personnel positioned at the gates, insists that he doesn’t judge suspicious activity on the basis of a person’s looks. He then recounts an incident which occurred earlier in the morning, when he had to follow a person who was denied entry to the ground and was seen scurrying away. “He claimed to be a doctor and had a syringe in his bag. When he was told that it wouldn’t be allowed, he started walking away briskly. I followed him… We caught up with him around the corner and it turned out that he was a doctor. He was the most suspicious man we encountered today,” he says, adding, after a brief pause, “And he was white.”