Kashmir students have been rusticated from a university in India after their alleged support of the Pakistan cricket team. The university blames the Kashmir students for showing anti-national character and rioting in the campus. Even though Kashmir students claim that they have been abused and humiliated by Indians they have been called ‘Pakistanis’ or ‘Terrorists’ by the local students for their support of Pakistan team during the nail-biting game against India on Sunday. The irony is that these 200 students are on Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship for Kashmir students. It was launched after the 2010 civil protest to contain the dissent of the Kashmir youth towards the Indian State. I wonder if a boss, who is a Manchester United fan, will fire a Liverpool fan who is his employee just because MU lost the game against Liverpool. This is hilariously absurd.
The racist attacks on Kashmiris living in India have been rampant especially since the outbreak of armed rebellion in early 90s. These attacks stem from the ignorance of common Indians on Kashmir and the idea of accepting Kashmiris not wanting to be a part of India. There is a nationalistic sentiment which goes against Pakistan in India and everything related to it. So when Kashmiris took up arms in 90s, they were branded as ‘Pakistani Terrorists’ though they were Kashmiris fighting for Independence. Or when Kashmiris took up to the streets from 2008, 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. The fact that Indian media always projects Kashmiris as outright ‘rioters’ or ‘elements of militant groups has also vilified Kashmiris to a large extent.
The point of the matter is that Kashmir people have always asserted their identity of ‘being a Kashmir national’ be it in India or overseas. In India, even if a Kashmir person who tries to engage with the ‘mainstream’ will always be the odd one out. Reason being he is from Kashmir. This identity of assertion of being a Kashmir person is ‘anti national’ in itself. One of the reasons why Kashmir people are denied residence in many places in Indian mainland.
So why do Kashmir people support Pakistani Cricket Team. Cricket is not just a game for Kashmir people, 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 revisit the year 1983, when Kashmir spectators waved Pakistani flags (smuggled in underpants) and Imran Khan posters in an India-West Indies match played in Srinagar. The West Indies team must have been shocked seeing Pakistani flags and their nemesis Imran’s posters all around the stadium. The cheering of Malcolm Marshall and Andy Roberts as they paced to bowl Sunil Gavaskar and Kris Srikanth. Scores of Kashmir persons were arrested after the pitch was famously dug by Kashmir youths.
Move to 2008 Santosh Trophy, Srinagar was hosting this mega soccer 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 Indian bureaucracy and leadership. Arrests were made and situation was ‘brought under control’.
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 bases. Although I should be quick to add that does in no way make Kashmir people as Pakistanis. Just like Azerbaijanis are not Turkish but at the same time a lot of relatives that bind them.
Walk through any wood-carving workshop in the old town of Srinagar; you are bound to find pictures of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Shahid Afridi. Go into a field; watch these young kids imitating Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar. Listen to a Kashmir person debate, which always revolve around politics, society and the inconsistency of Pakistani cricket team.
So when India plays Pakistan or any other country like Bermuda, Kashmir will always support the other side. Why? For Kashmir views supporting Pakistan or any other cricket team is also an act of a rebellion and defiance. Why? Listen to Kashmir people, in the streets who are tear-gassed, beaten up and jailed, you might find the answer.
The ignorance among common masses of India should change into an understanding of facts and realities. Like when protesters in India are called as protesters. But in Kashmir, non violent protests branded as ‘riots’. For these things to change, a common Kashmir person needs to speak out to the common people of India, given if latter is willing to hear the former’s story. India is the world’s largest democracy, and they should become the torchbearers of democratic values. First, by recognising Kashmir as a dispute, addressing the wrongs of the history and accepting the Kashmir natives struggle for their human rights.
It has been 68 years since Kashmir residents have not accepted the Indian state or the Indian Cricket team. If you wonder why? You should know the answer.
(Muhammad Faysal is a blogger from Kashmir and you can add his twitter handle twitter.com/_faysal)