Kashmir’s cricket catharsis

Kashmir’s cricket catharsis

By IMRAN KHAN

If Kashmiris don’t celebrate India’s win in cricket (or any other sport), then the ‘smart Indian’ should give his thought processes a kick-start and at least try to understand “why” and “what does it mean?”  Kashmiris have used cricket matches to give vent their feelings on many occasions. Be it 1983, when a one day international cricket match between India and the West Indies was held in Srinagar, or when Afridi hit two sixes off Ashwin in the final over to win a match in the Asia Cup, 2014, or now the recent T20 world cup defeat of India at the hands of West Indies. These are just a few cases which came to the limelight; otherwise it has been the same show all along.
In 1983, the event was so embarrassing for India that it didn’t dare to hold a second international match here for years. Rather than being remembered as the first international cricket match to be held in the Valley, this event is remembered for its display of anti-India sentiment. Similarly, in 2014 at Meerut University, 67 Kashmiri students cheered for Pakistan, received a sedition charge and were later expelled. And the recent defeat of India at the hands of the West Indies resulted in the NIT-Srinagar controversy.
In Kashmir, one mostly finds posters of Pakistani players in and around sports shops. People in Kashmir even name their loved ones after Pakistani players. Very rarely one finds a local team wearing a jersey resembling the Indian cricket team’s jersey. One can even find Kashmiri songs celebrating Pakistani cricketers and their win over India and other teams. Now, if all this does not symbolise Kashmiris giving vent to feelings, then what else can?
Non-local students in NIT might have been shocked by Kashmiris celebrating India’s loss, and they reacted to it, I understand and empathise with them. But their shocking reaction should also not be a surprise to Kashmiris. Because all their lives, the truth about Kashmir has been concealed from them. Be it by their elders, their teachers, by their media or by their government. The truth may be bitter, but it is far better than sweet lies.
Indian students and the rest of India need to understand the realities with regard to Kashmir, the promises made to Kashmiris not only by the Indian government, but also by the international community. The rest of India needs to know and understand the pain simmering in the hearts of Kashmiris. Before unfurling the tricolour at NIT, the non-local students need to know the number of deaths, disappearances, rapes and damage to property at the hands of Indian forces in Kashmir. They need to know about the history of Kashmir. Denial, anger, contradiction and conflict will take them nowhere, but correct information and understanding will enlighten them.
All non-locals who come to Kashmir for a visit or work or for studies are our guests. But they should also understand our sentiments and remain guests. NIT students are here for studies, and not to conquer Kashmir, they should focus on their studies, and I wish them luck for that. A desire to triumph with their nationalism in Kashmir is beyond their scope. Their government and troops are already devoted obsessively to the task. There is no need for them to jump into the stream of “forced nationalism”.
It is interesting that neither India’s media nor politicians nor Indian civil society made any noise when Kashmiris were expelled from different universities of India for celebrating other teams winning. No debate, discussion or anguish was shown when the same lathis were used against Kashmiries from time to time. Neither the home minister nor HRD ministry gave any statements when Kashmiri students were beaten and harassed in different states of India. The HRD ministry should not suppress student activism in JNU while supporting the NIT-Srinagar conflict. What is quite humorous is that the same J&K Police which was earlier receiving medals of appreciation for their counter-insurgency activities are now labelled as Pakistani agents on news channels! But what can be expected from a nation where even a cricket commentator is sacked for praising players of opposite teams?
Thought sports can be a means to build peace, but for Kashmiris cricket has become a means to show their anguish, anger and hatred towards India. Any team playing against India gets Kashmiri support. This situation needs understanding and not forced nationalism.
Dear NIT Indian guests, our budding cricketers are killed in broad daylight and you expect us to celebrate your win? You expect us to get integrated with India when Kashmiri students receive alien treatment in Indian universities for cherishing other teams? Our women are raped by your army and you want us to be patriotic? Your intelligence agencies even count the number of breaths a single Kashmiri takes and you want us to enjoy ‘freedom’?  Your media gives full coverage to NIT lathi charge, but remains mute when unarmed protesters are killed. Your cartoons raise questions over the marks obtained by a son whose father was hanged without informing him, just to satisfy the collective conscience of a country. Your problem and the biggest irony is that you are not able to read between lines, you are not able to accept what Kashmiris convey via cricket, or the fact may be that you don’t want to accept reality and continue your hegemony.
But the fact remains that by force, hearts cannot be won. The more forced nationalism there is from India, the more Kashmir will have a cricket catharsis. The sooner this is understood, the better.

—The writer has worked as a psychologist with Action Aid International and now works with the education department

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