Communalised Cricket?

Dear Editor,

The charge of sedition against Kashmiri students for supporting Pakistan in a thrilling India-Pakistan cricket match is condemnable. India’s reliance on such an outdated, congealed and reactive precept to punish youngsters rooting for Pakistan in a cricket match is an indictment of an increasingly authoritarian and repressive Indian State rather than of the young men for whom it seeks to punitive punishment. These young men were expressing what Syed Ali Shah Geelani accurately termed as their “inner sentiment” that, as we well know, is against the Indian occupation. Understandable as this articulation of the anti-India sentiment is, I do nevertheless wish to express dismay and anguish at its (intended or otherwise) reduction of a great cricketing rivalry between India and Pakistan to a sort of plebiscite against the Indian State that only serves to re-ignite and reinforce the very parochial and partisan India-Pakistan/Hindu-Muslim binary used by the Hindu right-wing to legitimise violence, bigotry and prejudice against Indian Muslims in general and against Kashmir Muslims in particular. It also serves to completely mask the moral, ethical and legal legitimacy of the Kashmiri struggle for justice. A second thought – and this may be at the cost of being labelled a closet nationalist – is that India’s cricket team is among the very last symbols of its greatly tarnished and deeply discredited secular traditions. Many a time, it has been the likes of an Irfan Pathan or a Zaheer Khan who have won matches for India, including those against arch-rival Pakistan; in many ways both are role models for young Indian Muslims. The Kashmiri characterisation of the Indian cricket team as a proxy of the Indian (read Hindu) State is, unfortunately, as partisan and parochial a construct as the State it seeks to oppose. It also makes it that much more difficult for Muslims in India to empathise and support the Kashmiri struggle.

Seema Kazi
New Delhi

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