By Nasir Khuehami and Younus Rashid
THAT rare occasion is inching closer; cricket teams of India and Pakistan face each other in the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 on October 24. Emotions on both sides are running high as people across South Asia eagerly wait for the biggest sports event in the region. But cricket is not just a game in this part of the world, it carries emotions, especially for people living in arch rival countries India and Pakistan. So, whenever India and Pakistan come face-to-face on a cricket field, politics follows, or in some special cases precedes the events itself.
The same is happening right now as the big event nears. Calls for cancellation of the match are already growing. This is done in retaliation of recent spate of killings in Kashmir. However, there are still some sane voices who say sports should not be mixed with politics and the proposed match should go ahead. Showing support for a particular sportsman or a team shouldn’t be seen as an act of fandom at all.
Ideally, your support for a particular team should not be tagged to your politics or ideology. Let sports remain what it is meant to be: a universal joining force for people of diverse cultures, communities, languages, religions, regions etc. But, unfortunately a few anti-social elements are hellbent to communalise this sporting event.
Cricket after all is a gentleman's game. Besides, India and Pakistan haven't held any bilateral series since 2012-13 and whenever they get to play against each other, it automatically becomes a big deal for fans. No doubt it is hard to detach nationalistic sentiments attached to cricket, particularly in India and Pakistan. But no harm in trying either. Unfortunately, it is the political relationship between India and Pakistan that defines everything else including cricket. Things got worse since right wing sentiment rule the roost. They have bonded together politics and sports in such a manner that separating them now is a daunting task for anyone. In this charged up atmosphere around cricket, one often place becomes its natural victim: Kashmir.
The sentiments of the people of Kashmir particularly of young seem to often ravaged in this sphere. So, the current high volt tension is a litmus test for Kashmiris, especially the youngsters who get hounded for liking a particular sports player or a team!
Where the problem starts for Kashmiri Students
There is a long list of incidents where Kashmiri students were being beaten, harassed or booked whenever there was a Ind Vs Pak clash. It is insane to beat students just because they cheered for a particular country or a team. Their support for a team should not be seen as their endorsement for a political ideology. We should respect each other's likes and dislikes and allow everybody the chance to entertain and enjoy the way they want.
My request to Kashmiris students would be to not let your emotions overwhelm you for a cricket match. Think about your family and career. Be mature and respect everyone. You matter, your career matters. Take a cup of tea and enjoy the game in silence. You have to realise that the upcoming match is taking place in the backdrop of a highly charged up and politicized environment created by politicians and sections of the media. India is witnessing growing intolerance and hate against Muslims and Kashmiris. Stay lowkey.
Past in the Post-Ind Vs Pak Matches
On 5th March 2016, Around 67 Kashmiri students were expelled from Swami Vivekanand Subharti University in Meerut Uttar Pradesh after they cheered for Pakistan during a cricket match.
The local students and other Hindu friends shouted slogans and thrashed them for cheering the Pakistani team. They went on rampage, vandalised the rooms of students, damaged the hall, broke laptops, abused and beat up a few others, hurled fits of abuse. The police later booked Kashmiri students under sedition.
After sending students back home, there was an angry reaction in the valley. It triggered protest and demonstration. On 27th August 2014, 12 students of a private engineering college in Punjab were injured after being beaten by non-Kashmiri students over cheering for Pakistan in a cricket match, later the college was closed for 3 weeks.
Similarly, on 2nd April, Kashmiri students were thrashed by their friends inside university premises after India lost to West Indies in a T20 cricket match. They were later arrested and booked under FIR by Police. After series of attacks on Kashmiri students in mainland India, Varasity Officials and other Indian parliamentarians categorically told that if they wish to cheer and yell for Pakistan they should go, study and complete their degrees in Pakistan.
Over 60000 students from Jammu and Kashmir are presently pursuing their Professional and non-Professional courses in different universities and colleges in Indian states. Many parents in Kashmir would be worried. Some have recalled their children for some days to avoid any unpleasant incident, ahead of a clash between two arch-rivals. They know political connotations and feelings attached to this match and game are very serious. They have fear of assault, torture, sedition, even arrests. There is a sense of anxiety among them that a silly game can put their lives in danger.
Series of family requests ahead of the match
Ahead of this high voltage game, between the two countries who always remain in news nationally and internationally, parents are making frantic calls to their children advising them to remain away from cricket watching venues or any crowds spaces and not to write provocative things on Social Media that adds fuel to the fire. There is anxiety and unease among parents for just a cricket match. They are calling their wards to make sure that they are safe.
All Kashmiri students pursuing studies outside in Indian states should please be patient and keep calm and control emotions during the match. Students should enjoy the game with the true sprit of a sportsman.
The larger message of sportsmanship
Games and sports are not just means of amusement but they teach us brotherhood and peace. These events must promote brotherhood and harmony, not violence.
Games become bridges for nations, be it Cricket or Football. Hatred, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and prejudices are unethical to the spirit of sportsmanship. We should see sports as sports, and shouldn't link it with nationalism or politics. Even opponents commend the good performers of the opposite team on the field. Even cricketers don't have any rivalry within the field or outside. They capture pictures, share compositive culture, care about each other and their families.
There are so many examples of such nature when a Centurian, a hard hitter is cheered by the fellow team after he is bowled out and returns to the pavilion. People love Kohli across the border for his cricket or those who love Babar Azam on this side aren't necessarily anti-nationals. Cricket has been unnecessarily politicized. The majority of the people in India have absolutely no idea who their football stars are when the game is far more popular than cricket.
Kashmiris studying in India shouldn't give the system and apparatus a chance to scapegoat them as criminals.
Views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- Nasir Khuehami is the spokesperson of J&K Students Association. He can be reached out at [email protected]
- Younus Rashid is the general secretary of J&K Students Association. He can be reached out at [email protected]
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