I Was a Dogged Indian Cricket Team Fan, August 5 Changed Me

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During the lockdown, I realized that something in me had shifted. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was no longer my favourite cricketer                                     

Aaqib Fayaz

ON 18th June, 2017, when Mohammad Amir took three crucial wickets against India in the finals of Champions Trophy, our entire hostel erupted in cheerful noise, I had not seen my friends that elated in a long time. That night I mulled over my transition from shedding tears, when India had lost to Pakistan in the group match of 2014 Asia Cup, to being extremely joyful for their day’s defeat.

In 2015, I finally got admission in Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST ), for a bachelor’s programme in electrical engineering, after several involuntary hiccups along the journey until that point which included unrests of 2008, 2010, and the floods of 2015. The university was located on a hill top in Awantipora district of South Kashmir, a distance of about 80 kms from my hometown Sopore.

Kashmir was gradually returning to stability only to be in mess again after witnessing the chaos and bloodshed for more than two decades which had completely put a halt to day-to-day life. But little did everybody know that the worst was yet to come.

South Kashmir, where the university was situated, was already the hub of militancy. Militants who previously preferred to hide their identities to protect themselves from security forces, had now become courageous enough to stop being in disguises and openly flaunt their pictures and videos along with their AK-47 rifles on social media. The rebel leader Burhan Wani, who was the face of new militancy on social media, had gained popularity all over Kashmir.

Meanwhile I had commenced the journey on the path of engineering, being an ardent supporter of Indian cricket team, I religiously watched every single match and cheered on every run scored and sometimes got frustrated whenever a wicket fell, like a die-hard fan. In fact, I was among the very few youngsters in Kashmir, who were of the opinion that sports and politics ought not to be mixed and supporting the Indian cricket team was not equal to going against the popular sentiment of hatred towards the Indian state. As a youngster, I did not understand the nuances of the relationship between Kashmir and India, but I  had always known that the relationship was quite special and everyone in Valley was awaiting the day, when Kashmir will also be like any other normal state.

On July 8, 2016, while enjoying the breeze on the balcony of my hostel room, in the evening, the news of the killing of Burhan Wani broke out. Perhaps the most loved person in Kashmir at that time, was  killed by security forces in an encounter in Bumdoora area of Kokernag. The news sent chills down my spine, because I understood that this was the beginning of something which could plunge Kashmir deeper into turmoil. In its immediate aftermath, scores of young Kashmiris were killed and thousands injured. Whole Kashmir was burning with fathers giving shoulders to the coffins of their dead sons, mothers and sisters wailing asking questions to their creator, why had he taken the light of their eyes away too soon. “Ye ha ohss me echan hund gaash”, ( He was the light of my eyes), cried the wailing mother living in the vicinity of the hostel, whose son got killed by security forces.

What followed the incident was complete inactivity for several months in Kashmir, with schools and offices shut, mobile connectivity was barred for several months, people were restricted to their homes helplessly with nobody to hear their calls for assistance. For the whole period of lockdown that lasted for about six months, watching the evening news bulletins about the number of people injured and killed during the course of the day and listening to the statements of different nobodies and somebodies had become the daily routine.

During this period of hibernation, I realized that something in me had shifted. I had also become a rebel, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (then the captain of Indian cricket team), was no longer my favourite cricketer, I had stopped making a distinction between India and the Indian cricket team, they were all the same. The inhumane restrictions put in place by the Indian government on Kashmiris, was something that even the caged unruly animals were unworthy of. Perhaps for them, that is what we were “unruly beasts”, who deserved to be caged and punished, and that is how the people of Kashmir were portrayed by the Indian nationalist media, to their mostly jingoistic audience “wolves waiting for the opportune moment to attack the Indian federation”. But little did everyone know, that the caged animal was not a wolf, but only a little bird, but  fluttering its wings, as the bird was gasping for air.

The unrest lasted for more than six months. Life returned to normal  seemingly after an eternity of violence. The coming year, we had to complete three semesters, which ideally would have taken one and a half years to complete, in order to compensate for the time already wasted. The hectic schedule almost made me give up on my engineering dreams.

The night, when India lost to Pakistan in the finals of Champions Trophy, I felt asleep, listening to the poem by Revolutionary poet, Habib Jalib:

“Tum ne loota hai sadiyon hamara sukoon,

Ab na hum par chalega tumhaara fasun

Chaar agar dardmandon ke bante ho kyun

 tum nahi chaaragar koi maane magar

main nahi manta mein nahi jaanta”

(For centuries you all have stolen our peace of mind

But your power over us is coming to an end,

Why do you pretend you can cure pain?

Even if some claim that you’ve healed

I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept)

The wrong policies of the government had made me reconcile with our doomed fate and give up on my dreams of ever seeing light in the valley. Perhaps I had stopped believing in the resurrection of Kashmir.

When that ominous August of 2019 came, I had almost completed my degree. At a time when the Indian government should have seriously given a thought to invalidating the AFSPA in Kashmir, they chose to revoke the special status or limited autonomy, granted to J&K under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, bifurcated the state and downgraded it  into a centrally administered Union Territory (UT). The vents of the cage were sealed yet again, this time the oppressive measures on the activity in Kashmir were even more stringent. All the regional leaders whether mainstream or separatist were placed under house arrest, mobile connectivity was suspended, more than ten thousand boys, many of whom were juveniles, were picked up from their homes and put behind the bars, heavy curbs were imposed on the freedom of local press, curfew was imposed in all parts of J&K, even up to this day the high speed mobile internet is not working in Kashmir. All this to suppress any form of response.

Recently the J&K administration has approved the new “Media Policy-2020”, which effectively empowers the administration to decide whether a particular news is “anti-social and anti-national” or not. The move drew sharp criticism from the Kashmir journalists, as according to them the policy was detrimental to the freedom of speech and expression and had no place in the constitutional framework of India, the same constitution that the ordinary Kashmiris had stopped believing in a long time ago. I see people least bothered by such regressive policies of the administration, may be because they see New Delhi as a usurper and usurpers have a history of curbing the freedom of their subjects.

While Kashmir was under a savage lockdown, the world leaders were scheduled to speak at the United National General Assembly (UNGA), in September 2019, the people of Kashmir with all their innocence had tied their threads of hope to it. But nothing happened.

In November 2019, when nothing was working out in Kashmir, I decided to shift to Delhi for further education. To my surprise, I found that everyone in Delhi, from an Uber driver to my landlady seemed convinced that Modi had done wonders in Kashmir, by abrogating Article 370, bringing happiness to the people of Kashmir, that it was merely because of Pakistan that Kashmiris rebelled against India, that there was no fundamental issue of snatching the rights of Kashmiris and this move would eventually bring as they would say “Vikas”, (development) in Kashmir. I was bewildered by the magnitude of misinformation that had been spread among the ordinary citizens regarding Kashmir, through social media and by some biased media organizations. I realised that, perhaps we were already living in a dystopian society,  where there were humongous handicaps on the free thinking ability of the proletariat, where the government’s propaganda was the ultimate truth and the truth was considered to be the hate speech, and where everyone was under the surveillance of the government.

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One Response to "I Was a Dogged Indian Cricket Team Fan, August 5 Changed Me"

  1. SKChadha  July 26, 2020 at 9:03 am

    Aaqib Fayaz, “FREEDOM” in democracy is ‘a safety valve’ for releasing pressure of anger by people against their own elected leaders. It is nothing more. It allows people to vent out their feelings and SENTIMENTS without fear or favour. It is also to make them think betterment of society and establish social order. It is not by holding guns in hand and fighting their own nation and its rule as by Burhan Wani.

    The FREEDOM comes with REASONABLE RESTRICTIONS for common good, which is to be decided by the same elected representatives? Expression of sentiments freely (as in valley) doesn’t make these sentiments automatically as governing norms of a nation. The freedom of expression has no scope of intimidation, violence, force, incitement or public disorder against anybody including the State.

    Even in choicest best democratically free nations, the citizenry or public at large have to accept the writ of the government represented by elected representatives. The voices you hear in Delhi is dominent expression of this nation and not which you used to hear in Valley. In best of the democracies also, citizenry sacrifice some of its fundamental rights for a good social order. Remember, in peaceful social living, sacrifices of rights and freedoms are at all levels i.e. from individual to family, family to neighborhood, neighborhood to community and community to states and so on. Even the nations are sacrificing certain rights while being part of UN? Please keep your hand on our heart and think by FREE mind, “Being a follower of a particular faith, sect or religion or while protecting our family values, marriage etc., ARE WE NOT SACRIFICING FEW OF YOUR OWN PERSONAL FREEDOMS?

    The only problem with valley thinking is that that it is unable to impose the ‘REASONABLE RESTRICTIONS’. The burden of such restrictions the GoJ&K had taken on its own shoulders, in the name of autonomy? If any Kashmiri thinks that this kind of situation can give them something more from 1.25b Indians, his thinking is absolutely flawed? It is the valley which only despite having maximum freedom under Constitution of India, continuously cried for more. More autonomy without desired restrictions is making them more riotous, lawless and bully tottering guns against the national/ local forces. This is also reflected in support which valley Media houses give to such voices for their own benefits. There wa need to put reasonable check on it. This is not only by the larger Indian citizenry but even the silent majority of J&K itself? The reason of abrogation of Article 370 and 35A by 2/3 majority of both houses of Parliament is reflective of it. Search and read more about Indian Media which is largest of the world and more diverse. Remember, NO MORE ‘NANGA NAACH’ WILL BE ALLOWED to Valley feudal politicians and religious bigots who ruled the beautiful land for last 72 years in the name of Autonomy, kicked out the Kashmiri Pundits and denying equality of rest of valley citizenry in the name of 1927 anarchic laws IN THE NAME OF AUTONOMY, SPECAIL STATUS, PLEBISCITE AND WHAT NOT?

    The issue of minority and their protection was always under consideration and it was basically related with ‘law and order’ and ‘freedom to profess faith’. In India this issue is always taken care by States under Constitutional provisions. It is only the State of J&K which was failing in it. Despite assurances GoJ&K had failed on this count not only in case of KPs but also in case of Christians, Ahmadi, Ismily, Shia and Bodh. Check up the changes in population these minorities as reflected through various census conducted in J&K since 1951. To me your expression is nothing but for desire of continuation of this anarchy in beautiful valley. There are many Kashmiri in all parts of India who shifted their base for employment or business from valley. They are also having their own dwelling units and lands around India. Why can’t I as an Indian do that in Valley? Any reason?

    Reply

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