Kashmiris will cheer any other country playing against India, and they will do it to express their political feelings against the world’s largest democracy, says Muhammad Faysal
Sixty students from Kashmir have been reportedly suspended from a university in India after they cheered for Pakistan cricket team during a recent India-Pakistan cricket match.
The university blamed the Kashmiri students for showing what they called “anti-national” character and rioting in the campus. The Kashmiri students, on the other hand, claim that they were abused and humiliated by local Indian students. Kashmiris were reportedly called ‘Pakistanis’ and ‘terrorists’ by the local students for their support of Pakistani team during the nail-biting win pulled off by Pakistan during the ongoing Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
The irony is that these students are pursuing various courses through a Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship for Kashmiri students, launched after the 2010 uprising as a confidence building measure.
With this logic, owner of a company who likes Manchester United would have to fire his employees who cheer for Liverpool fans. This is just hilariously absurd.
The attacks on Kashmiris living in various parts of India have increased in frequency, especially after the outbreak of armed rebellion against Indian rule in 1989. These attacks stem from the ignorance of common Indians about Kashmir dispute and their failure to accept that Kashmiris have a right to separate from India.
Everything that represents Pakistan is hated by majority of Indians, and of late Indian nationalism has become synonymous with hatred for Pakistan. So when Kashmiris took up arms in ’90s, they were branded as ‘Pakistani terrorists’ though they were locals fighting for Independence. Or when Kashmiris took to the streets in 2008 and the subsequent years, they were infamously branded as ‘agitational terrorists’ by an Army officer on a TV debate.
These attacks are akin to what Algerians had to face in France or Irish in England during the troubles. Although a common Indian is uneducated about what common Kashmiris have been through over the years. Plus the fact the Indian media has always projected Kashmiris as outright ‘rioters’ or ‘elements of Lashkar-e-Toiba’. This in turn has vilified Kashmiris to a much larger extent.
Coming back to the controversy, cricket is not just a game for Kashmiris, it is a show of defiance. The people of Kashmir have always supported Pakistan, be it in cricket, hockey or any other sport. One needs to go to the year 1983, when Kashmiris waved Pakistani flags (smuggled in underpants) and Imran Khan posters in an India-West Indies match played in Srinagar.
Fast forward to 2008 Santosh Trophy. Srinagar was hosting this mega football event which has participants from all states of India. In the final stages of the tournament, Kashmir was playing Punjab. A ruckus was created after the referee erred. Again, pro-Pakistani slogans were chanted in front of pro- India bureaucracy and leadership.
There’s a deep sense of discontent against India and everything that symbolises it in Kashmir. Be it the cricket team or an Indian politician. Pakistani sentiment has its political, cultural, emotional, historical and religious basis. However, it needs to be mentioned that all these things don’t make Kashmiris as Pakistanis. Just like Azerbaijanis are not Turkish but at the same time they have many things in common.
Walk through any woodcarving workshop in the old town of Srinagar, you will find pictures of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Shahid Afridi. Go into a playing field, watch young kids imitating Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar. Listen to a Kashmiri debate, which always revolve around politics, society and the inconsistency of Pakistani cricket team.
So when India plays Pakistan or any other country, even if it is Israel, Kashmiris will always support the opposite side. Why? For Kashmiris view supporting Pakistan or any other cricket team also as an act of a rebellion and defiance. Why? Listen to Kashmiris, in the streets who are tear-gassed, beaten up and jailed, you will find the answer.
The ignorance among common masses of India should change into an understanding of facts and realities. Realities that are hidden when a television anchor calls protesters in Kashmir as ‘rogue elements’ but refers Square protesters as protesters.
India is the world’s largest democracy, and Indians, therefore, should become the torchbearers of democratic values.
It has been 68 years since India and Pakistan decided the fate of Kashmir without taking into account the wishes of Kashmiris. No wonder, Kashmiris are yet to accept the Indian State or its Men in Blue.