If cheering for Pakistan or praising Pakistani players in a cricket match against India is an act of sedition, then entire Kashmiri people needed to be charged for sedition. How come Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sanjay Manjrekar and Murli Karthik escape punishment? The way they showered accolades on Shahid Afridi for hitting two consecutive sixes of Ravi Ashwin that gave Pakistan victory over India there is enough scope for them to be booked under Enemy’s Agents Act. But stop guys! This is sport, not war. It is extreme degree of intolerance and stupefying that seems sneakily to be growing in India to slap charges of sedition against a group of students enjoying a cricket match in a private university in Meerat (UP). In the end, the sedition charges have been dropped but not before the paranoid had rightly been made to feel embarrassed.
It was a question of maintaining sangfroid and a sense of proportion. If 67 Kashmiri students of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University (SVSU) got carried away over Pakistan’s victory at Dhaka in the Asia Cup, the maturity expected of Indian authorities was found missing. It is always thrilling to watch India and Pakistan clashing on a cricket field. For the rivalry the two countries put up with since the birth of Pakistan in 1947, any such clash between them is deemed as mother of all battles. People of Kashmir, for their own reasons, have always sided with Pakistan in every type of clashes; be diplomatic, military or sport.
To be fair and honest, India is not the country most of the people in Kashmir align with. The denial of right of self determination by Indian government coupled with refusal of democratic rights in matters of governance has put India in poor light in Kashmir. Most people see it as alien country which makes its presence in Kashmir through military power. It is this predominant feeling that made a generation of Kashmiri people to pick up gun against Indian rule in late 80s. The generation that has come up in the years of armed trouble feels emotionally and psychological more alienated than the elder generation. It is against this backdrop that they ignore the consequences and avail off any and every occasion to give vent to their feelings.
The anger in Kashmir is not restricted to India-Pak clashes alone. It should serve as grim reminder to the people who matter in Delhi that Kashmiri people, on occasions, find a psychological satisfaction even when India loses to any other country as well. In 1983, people of Kashmir, whole hog, came in support of West Indies team when India was to play it in a match in Srinagar. The famous six by legendry Javed Miandad against Chaiten Sharma in Sharja (during Austral-Asia Cup final) in 1986 that gave Pakistan victory over India was celebrated in Kashmir for more than a week. So it is not uncommon for a Kashmiri to side with Pakistan during a clash with India in any sport; cricket or hockey mainly. In the latest victory, entire Kashmir valley reverberated with sounds of fire crackers and roars of celebrations.
The wisdom has it that the enthusiasm and emotions need brakes as well. An act of bravado cannot be always a good judgment. Overlooking its consequences would make it self-destructing. One cannot let loose emotions in all situations. It is anybody’s guess that the uncontrolled use of sentiments is bound to have a reaction. The reaction by the local students to the post-match conduct of Kashmiri students could not be squarely dismissed as unwarranted. They had genuine reasons to act the way they acted. More than castigating university authorities, it is all the more necessary for the Kashmiri students to maintain cool in the moments of emotions. Misplaced emotions are in no way justified either in political or religious sense. The trouble these students are in is self-invited.
But the way the university authorities and Uttar Pradesh government reacted against these students is, to say the least, beyond ludicrous. The students have not only been suspended from the university and packed off to their homes but were charged with ‘crimes of sedition, rioting and creating disharmony among different sections of the society’. Though the sedition charge has been dropped after huge outrage but it has once again exposed serious chinks and the hollowness in the supposedly world’s greatest democracy. A keen political commentator has rightly put it as ‘greatest democracy with smallest heart’.
The million dollar question that haunts the sensible minds is that Is India’s democracy so frail and fragile that a simple clap for a six hit by a Pakistani player shakes it to the bottom. After all, it was a game that India and Pakistan were involved in, not war. If cheering for Shahid Afridi for hitting a six of Ravi Ashwin warrants a case of sedition against Kashmiri students then TV commentators, newspaper columnist, serious game lovers, who used all their vocabulary in praising Shahid Afridi too need to be booked being enemy’s agent. “Only Afridi has the courage to do it. No other player in the world is so courageous’ were the words of Gavaskar. If one goes by the police and political mindset working in India, Gavaskar’s praise for Afridi is a great affront to the pride of India.
Incidentally, the cases against Kashmiri students were slapped after members of Bharatiya Janata Party (as revealed by newspaper reports) met the university’s vice chancellor Dr Manzoor Ahmad and management officials demanding stern action against the students who praised Pakistan. A group of students associated with youth wing of the safforn party also burnt the effigy of the vice chancellor while students in CCS University took out Ahmad’s staged funeral procession inside the premises blaming him. The BJP is now reported to have approached the Election Commission against dropping of sedition charges against Kashmiri students. With BJP eying on 7 Race Course Road in the coming general elections, it provides us a window to peep through as what kind of India is shaping up. BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s political credentials are no more a secret.
The use of law of sedition against Kashmiri boys brought forth another darker side of Indian mindset. They treat Kashmir as a colony. The law of sedition is a colonial legacy. It was formulated by British subjugators to crush voices of freedom by Indians. The law was invoked against Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the pioneers of Indian freedom movement.
In free India Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah was charged with sedition in 1953 after he was dethroned as Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. More recently Arundhati Roy was charged under the same law for publicly speaking in favour of Kashmiris’ right to self determination. This lays the fact bare that there is something in the mountains of Kashmir that disturbs India time and again. Freedom of expression, as we are told, is the corner stone of Indian democracy. We are time and again told about Article 19 of Indian constitution which guarantees this freedom. But when it comes to Kashmir and Kashmiris, there seems to be no such constitutional provision.
By Rashid Ahmad