When the Asia Cup T20 cricke tournament was going on Bangladesh and a few spectators cheered for Pakistan against India in a match, author Taslima Nasreen was livid. She asked how could Pakistan be supported by people of a country which was once subjected to unthinkable torture by the soldiers of West Pakistan?
Fom a writer like Nasrin, such a rigid viewpoint is quite unexpected. Such negative vibes of nationalism are completely unwanted and that too in relation with a cricket match, the impact of which is never permanent. If Pakistan win a game today, tomorrow Bangladesh can pull another back. That is how competitive patritoism works in sports. It is a complete anti-thesis to clash of nationalisms with arms.
But the same unfortunate story unfolded in India in the very next T20 tournament, which was the World Cup. This time, hosts India lost in a high-scoring semifinal to the West Indies and all hell broke loose in the National Institute of Technology, Srinagar. Some Kashmiri students celebrated India's defeat and this left the non-Kashmiri students furious and the situation only worsened from there and high-level intervention from the authorities followed.
The Kashmiris perhaps had too many firecrackers intact since Pak could never beat India in WC; so what?
The reaction to the Kashmiri students celebrating India's defeat was far too serious. If we see history, this is not the first time that Kashmiris have celebrated an Indian defeat in cricket. Even in the 1980s, the scenario was same and this hints at deep feelings of antagonism and alienation among the local people.
But meeting this reaction with a matching anger will take us nowhere. One feels the reaction to what happened in NIT Srinagar was same to what had transpired at the JNU and the problem went on snowballing. India can afford to alienate the Kashmiri sentiments and do more harm to its socio-political fabric and needs to carefully address this issue. The police and army can't be the solution to problems every time.
If the Kashmiris found great pleasure in a West Indian win, we can always let them do so. They were perhaps waiting for Pakistan to beat India in a World Cup match for far too long but never got the chance to relish the moment as Pakistan have lost to India in all 11 matches the two sides have played in the World Cup (50-over and T20 combined).
So if they find a solace in a West Indian win, there can not be a retaliation by shouting "Pakistan Murdabad" slogans or demanding shifting the NIT out of the Valley.
Why people like Anupam Kher are so worried?
What was the purpose of actor Anupam Kher to reach Srinagar and "salute" nationalism of the outstation students? People like Kher was rightly stopped at the airport itself or they could have made things worse by making statements lacking wit.
That's simply a recipe for more damage. A democracy gives space to dissent and that's where its success lies, even if it sounds ironical. Countries like the United States have flourished because they follow this simple rule on their soil.
Cricket is turning out to be a divider now
If we say on the one hand that cricket could be a bridge between us and Pakistan, then we should also take care of the fact that cricket is not allowed to become a divider between Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris as has been seen in NIT. The new government of Mehbooba Mufti needs to work on reducing the psychological gap between Srinagar and New Delhi and ensure that not everything sees a strong reaction and even in some cases, retaliation.
Just because the BJP is a partner in power in Jammu and Kashmir doesn't ensure that one will smoothly sow the seeds of nationalism on its soil. A lot of sensitivity needs to be attached when dealing with Kashmiriyat and till now, the non-Kashmiri sentiments haven't shown enough skills in handling the issue.