SRINAGAR: As the cricket teams of India and Pakistan gear up for their high-profile T20 clash on Friday in the World T20 Championship in Bangladesh, Kashmiri students studying in educational institutions across India brace up to avoid controversies that may arise, yet again, with their support for the men-in-green.
Majority in the Kashmir Valley are diehard fans of the Pakistan cricket team as gets demonstrated through jubilations in the streets of Kashmir every time Pakistan wins a cricket title. The bursting of fire crackers, dancing, and sloganeering intensifies when the victory is against India.
When Pakistan defeated India in a nail-biting match in the recently concluded Asia Cup on March 2, the celebrations here in the Valley were no less noisy or lengthy. But what followed at Swami Vivekanand Subharti University (SVSU) at Meerut in Uttar Pradesh—the varsity suspended 67 Kashmiri students for having cheered over Pakistan’s victory after the game—added a new chapter to the long history of Kashmir’s love for the game and Pakistan cricket team.
Consequently, many Kashmiris studying outside the state may now be reluctant to watch the Friday’s game inside the hostels and campus.
“I received calls from many friends studying in various colleges located in Gurgaon. They don’t want to watch the match in their campuses, fearing that their support for Pakistan may evoke a fresh controversy in the backdrop of what happened in Meerut recently. So they will watch the game at our flat instead,” Umair Gul, a postgraduate student at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi told Kashmir Reader.
Even as the authorities at the Jamia haven’t restricted students watching the game at the hostels after the Meerut episode, which had attracted media attentions from India and abroad, the students want to be away from the campus during the match.
“Jamia has many students from Azamgarh supporting Pakistan. Yet many of us are of the opinion that watching the match at our private flats or rooms shall be better. It is a natural response,” Gul said.
In other states, the college or university authorities are taking precautions to avoid a repeat of Meerut controversy. This time the students may not see the authorities arrange a TV set at a preferred location for them to watch the game.
“At the time of Asia Cup match between India and Pakistan, the college authorities had allowed us to take the television to the main hall. But this time, they are not encouraging it,” said an undergraduate Kashmiri student studying in an Engineering college at Sonepat.
A B Tech student from a reputed university in Jalandhar said the institute has put in place ample security to avoid any controversies due to the match.
“Every time there is a cricket game like this, the emotions run high and cheering and applaud come naturally for the team we support. But our institute has made security arrangements to avoid any controversies. So we may be able to watch the game in the hostels,” he said.
In more liberal institutions like Delhi University (DU), however, the things are unchanged. The Kashmiris supporting Pakistan will watch the match alongside their non-Kashmiri colleagues who support India.
“On Friday also, I will be in the front row of the hostel hall, and I will be cheering and yelling for Pakistan cricket team,” said Aamir Sadiq, a Ph D scholar at DU.
“What happened in Meerut was because of the immaturity displayed by the authorities there. But here in DU, there are no limits on the choices we can have,” he added.
The students suspended by SVSU are yet to return to the campus despite promises and assurances of the state government and the varsity authorities. The treatment meted out to them for merely supporting a cricket team may have strengthened the resolve of Kashmiri students studying in India.
“It just made my resolve to support any team other than India even stronger. This is not just about supporting Pakistan in a match, this is more of a political statement,” said Samreen Mushtaq an M Phil scholar in Jamia Millia Islamia.