Skip to main content

When Cricket Turns Into a Form of Protest in Kashmir

“Right now everything in Kashmir is about protest”


SRINAGAR—When teams from India and Pakistan will walk out onto the fields at the Oval in England this Sunday, it won’t be like any other game, at least in Kashmir. While the two countries wait with bated breath for the match to unfold, parents of Kashmiri students who study outside Kashmir, are frantically booking tickets for their children to return home. They’re worried their kids might be lynched for expressing their support for Pakistan.

A TV anchor of a national television channel, declared that on Sunday while India and Pakistan will be playing the finals of the ICC Championships he is going to be watching out for those who sit in India and support Pakistan.  “Everyone must declare that they are supporting India. Everyone, including everyone in Kashmir.  And anyone in India, especially in Kashmir, who is not with India should go to Pakistan.”

Avid cricket enthusiast and political analyst, Gowhar Geelani, believes that for Kashmir an India-Pakistan match is war minus shooting. “As a lover of sports I would love that the game be taken simply as a game. But in Kashmir it’s not that easy. It would be far too Utopian to desire that.”

“The jingoism that India has woven around this game forces us to make choices. Ideally, the sport should be left alone and politics shouldn’t interfere but right now when it comes to Kashmir this is not possible.”

Cricket fans highlight Kashmir issue during the ongoing Champions Trophy in UK- Pix Dadyal

Shabbir Hussain Bucchh, a sports enthusiast believes that Kashmir knows exactly where its loyalties lie. “The jingoism that India has woven around this game forces us to make choices. Ideally, the sport should be left alone and politics shouldn’t interfere but right now when it comes to Kashmir this is not possible.”  

Pradeep Magazine, Sports Editor at the Hindustan Times, echoes Shabir. “For Kashmiris, these matches have simply become a vehicle to express their resentment.”

Javed Parsa, who owns a popular food joint in Srinagar adds that there is also an added tension when India plays with Pakistan. “It is not the same when India plays with Australia”

Arghya Bhaskar, a journalism student in Bangalore, believes that cricket plays an integral part in the identity formation of India. “For a long time India has dominated cricket and won many matches. If Pakistan wins Sundays match, it would also mean a certain breaking of Indian identity and that’s what drives Kashmiris to support Pakistan.”

In India, cricket has now turned into a ‘political tool’. The question now arises if sports should shoulder shades of politics or not.

Amitoj Singh, a sports journalist for a national television channel believes that a sport is about two teams/countries coming out onto the field with a competitive spirit. “Sports are the biggest unifiers in the world. It should never reflect war.”

On the other hand, Arghya Bhaskar, believes that cricket is one of the best kind of political tool. “Right now everything in Kashmir is about protest. Nothing can or must escape the resistance struggle.”

Ashley Tellis, researcher and LGBT activist currently based out of Bangalore, believes that this isn’t exclusive to Kashmir. “Sports have always been used as a political tool. In India, when it comes to an India-Pakistan match it suddenly becomes about displaying nationalism.”

In Kashmir, cricket doesn’t escape politics. Once politics is mixed, it changes the dynamics of watching and experiencing a game. On the evening of 12th July 2016, security forces went on a rampage in the Vehli village of Shopain district in South Kashmir after residents’ celebrated Pakistan cricket teams’ victory over Sri Lanka. In 2014, 67 Kashmiri students were charged with sedition and eventually expelled from their college in North India for cheering for Pakistan during a match against India. Such events makes one wonder if mere disagreement becomes equivalent to sedition today?

In Kashmir, cricket doesn’t escape politics. Once politics is mixed, it changes the dynamics of watching and experiencing a game. On the evening of 12th July 2016, security forces went on a rampage in the Vehli village of Shopain district in South Kashmir after residents’ celebrated Pakistan cricket teams’ victory over Sri Lanka. In 2014, 67 Kashmiri students were charged with sedition and eventually expelled from their college in North India for cheering for Pakistan during a match against India. Such events makes one wonder if mere disagreement becomes equivalent to sedition today?

“Slapping sedition during such cases only depicts a curbing of dissent, a need to hide a reality. It simply represents the juvenile, colonial mindset of people. It further adds to the sentiments of alienation faced by Kashmiris and contributes to the process of their otherisation of Kashmir.”

A crowd watching India-Pak clash at Edgbaston on June 4 at a Srinagar TV showroom.

Gowhar Geelani attributes sedition to be a colonial law. “Slapping sedition during such cases only depicts a curbing of dissent, a need to hide a reality. It simply represents the juvenile, colonial mindset of people. It further adds to the sentiments of alienation faced by Kashmiris and contributes to the process of their otherisation of Kashmir.”

Amitoj Singh claims that he has never seen any sportsman or politician coming out to say sports shouldn’t be mixed with politics. “This is just reflective of how they just don’t go out of the way to inspire people.”

Javed Parsa believes that the sedition law is one of the ugliest parts of Indian democracy. “Sedition is very strange also because there is a massive difference when a non-Kashmiri and non-Muslim supports Pakistan. That might even be sportively taken but when a Muslim and especially a Kashmiri supports Pakistan it suddenly becomes sedition? I don’t understand it.”Shabbir Hussain Bucchh believes that by charging sedition on people who support Pakistan just goes to show how India is so ‘overwhelmed by Fascism’. “The nature of growing intolerance is quite alarming. Such incidents only re-emphasize this.” said Bucchh.

Also Read—Nervous Kashmir hopes for Pakistan win 

Pradeep Magazine says, “As long as there is no violence being perpetuated, the Indian state shouldn’t be charging anyone with sedition. Anybody should be allowed to support any team. This is a match, not a war. If anything Indian Government should start wondering why there is so much wide spread support for Pakistan in Kashmir. That might produce some effective dialogue.”

Arghya Bhaskar says, “The sedition law is quite funny. It was a law used by the British against Indians and now (in this case) the Indian State, uses it against Kashmiris? Once again it is a ‘General Dyer’ moment between Kashmir and India.”

Wonders Ashley Tellis, “Why shouldn’t people who support Pakistan burst crackers? If the better team happens to win, of course it must be supported. Moreover why is there so much fuss over this? How is this even sedition? 

Vishal Arora a freelance journalist says, “Citizens cannot be forced by the State to be patriotic, and nor can they be stopped from loving another country. While the India-Pakistan relations are understandably tense, the people to people relations have been fairly good irrespective of the religious affiliations of the citizens on either side, I have seen. Now, the State cannot compel citizens to share the sense of animosity it has towards Pakistan. If an Indian citizen chooses to root for the Pakistani team, it cannot be presumed as a threat to the nation. To take legal action on this presumption is nothing less than brutality towards citizens.”

On the other hand, an important question is also about what happens to those Kashmiris who do support India. Do they get alienated within the community? Do they not express this support openly? Is there an internal informal tinge of sedition (for lack of a better term) attributed to these supporters of Indian cricket from within the Kashmiri community?

With regard to this, Arghya Bhaskar agrees that it is hard for people from within the Kashmiri community to come out in support of the Indian cricket team. “These are the side-effects of a long drawn out rebellion”

Gowhar Geelani believes that Kashmir has its own set of problems. “The Sikhs and Pundits in our community might want to support India. There’s no doubt that curbing of dissent happens here as well. Nevertheless, I’m hopeful about this generation which seems much more well-read and aware about the conflict.”

Related Story—Indo-Pak Cricket Clash: Kashmiri Students Outside Under Radar

Be part of Open Journalism

At Kashmir Observer we pride ourselves for being open, honest and unbiased. If you have noticed we haven’t put up a paywall unlike many news organisations, – as we want to keep our journalism open. We believe journalism should be open, fearless and unbiased. Open information helps with informed decisions.

Journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce, despite all the hardships we still do it, because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying and advertising revenues across the media industry is falling fast.

If everyone who reads our reporting, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure and we will be able to keep our and your perspective going. So if we may ask, we ask your help in keeping the Kashmir Observer’s journalism fair and square.

Conversations

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting rules.

The opinions expressed in reader contributions are those of the respective author only, and do not reflect the opinions/views of Kashmir Observer or/and it's affiliate.