Ind vs Pak: In Kashmir, patriotism hinges on a game of cricket now more than ever

SS Dhawan
SS DhawanJun 17, 2017 | 15:18

Ind vs Pak: In Kashmir, patriotism hinges on a game of cricket now more than ever

That people who are not at peace with themselves cannot even enjoy a game of cricket is perhaps the saddest aspect of the insurgency in Kashmir.

For an average Kashmiri – not the separatist variety – the gentleman's game has got "bound up in hate and hostility" – so that they can't even cheer a Virat Kohli or a Shikhar Dhawan – regardless of the stroke play in the field – just because they happen to be on the wrong side of the deep divide.


Because on the other side it is a very different game – a bloody sport that separatists and Pakistan have played with them without adhering to any norms of fair play.

A sport in which a large number of Kashmiris have been mere spectators with a gun pointed at their heads – a deadly game of Russian Roulette – the bullet in one of the chambers, the cylinder spinning away...

And yet some among us expect these right thinking Kashmiris – to wear patriotism on their sleeve and prove a point by proclaiming from the rooftop that they support the Indian Team! And if they don't, then be ready to hear the slur: 'Go to Pakistan!'

What temerity, what cheek? Why not stir out of your comfort zone and make a similar demand from Lal Chowk in Srinagar; wave the Team India jersey in the face of the man in the street in Budgam and tell him: I am the Pied Piper – the rat catcher – I will lead you all to Pakistan and dump you there...or take you to the Jhelum and drown you there, because you don't wear patriotism up your sleeve!


I invite these jingoists to Anantnag: let us sit in a Kashmiri friend's sitting room and cheer the Indian team – as lustily as we can – let us wave the Tricolour in the air like a Trident, let us cock a snook at Pakistan!

But I promise, if you get the jitters, if your voice gets stuck like a lump in your throat, if the hand that holds the Team India jersey shakes a trifle, we will not question your patriotism, we will not doubt your intent, we will not tell you: 'Go to Pakistan!'

Thanks to jingoists, patriotism hangs by a slender thread – a game of cricket – these days. But what is in question here is not just your innate love for Team India but whether you take the trouble of wearing your patriotism up your sleeve or not. Like a badge of honour.

And the gold standard by which your nationalism will be measured is whether you are a flag waving and a chest thumping kind or not? Because if you are the reticent kind, who does not howl or bay for the blood of the Pakistanis, who, despite his love for his country, does not like to draw attention to himself, then you will surely be placed in the pillory by the 'true nationalist.'


I hold no brief for Kashmiris who have an affinity for Pakistan; let them stew in their juices. Of course, Kashmiris who are not living in the shadow of the separatist's gun – elsewhere in the country – need to show more spunk and articulate their support for team India; there is no excuse for them to 'whip out Pakistani flags from their pants' and brandish them like hand guns; some of them do this even if India is playing against England or West Indies!

But the 'true nationalist' must understand that whenever there have been such transgressions, in Meerut and other places, the intent was often to provoke, to offend, to tell the world that there is a serious disconnect between them and the political establishment. Like many others, who go about their lives without a murmur, it has to do with the youth's dissatisfaction with the successive political regimes and the mechanism of conflict resolution of which now the Army is a part.

india-pak1-copy_061717114032.jpg[Photo Courtesy: PakistanToday]

In a way, a not so subtle message is being put out that it is the time the mandarins in North and South Block had a strategy that will address the civil dissonance and the problem of a jobless youth that is ready to self-destruct.

The youth further seek to convey by their recalcitrance that even if the political establishment is unable to extinguish the jihadi threat due to the overpowering religious absolutism, at least it should try to bring them back into the mainstream.

That should not be a tall order given that both the central and the state governments are under the BJP's control? Admittedly, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed's demise was a major setback; he was one person who could have convinced the Kashmiris about the sincerity of the Modi government. But does that mean we will keep waiting for a messiah and until that happens it will be status quo?

So, take it as given, that as is the case elsewhere in the country, a large number of Kashmiris, too, want to cheer the cricket players regardless of their origin, colour of skin or race. Though some among them may put up an 'act of defiance' by waving a green coloured duster at the TV cameras. Often, it is just misplaced bravado.

So, if we really want most Kashmiris to turn Team India cheerleaders, the stakeholders in the Valley need to take time out from the game that has played itself out for the last three decades, at least. The players in this hideous sport are the jihadists, the separatist spokespersons, and the political leaders.

Only in a democratic polity, the outcome does not depend on the performance of the players; it is in the hands of the spectators.

So, it will be some time before the Tricolour comes out in an India-Pakistan match and is seen in each Kashmiri's hand!

Until then, it is just another day in paradise!

Last updated: June 17, 2017 | 15:18
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