Was Shahid Afridi right in saying that the support his Pakistani team got in India was from Kashmiris?
BCCI grandee and BJP MP Anurag Thakur said Afridi was “politically incorrect” to have said it. Perhaps, but was he factually correct? Apparently. The Times of India’s Twitter account for sports ran a clip headlined: “WATCH: Fans from Kashmir bat for Pakistan cricket team ahead of Australia clash in Mohali.”
The Kashmiri fans concerned said they would support Pakistan even over India. This may not surprise many readers. In one of his books, I think it was Runs ‘n Ruins, Sunil Gavaskar writes about playing in Kashmir in the 1980s. He was taken aback by the hostility and to see posters supporting Imran Khan.
My question is: what incentive do Kashmiris have for supporting India? We may not want them to express their sentiment, fine, but what are we doing to ensure they don’t feel the hostility? I would say very little. And it’s likely to get worse.
The BJP’s ascent has taken Kashmiris further from India. This may seem a strange thing to say now, at the cusp of a PDP-BJP wedding, but the facts stand where they do. Let’s survey events as a Kashmiri might. The state is divided along religious lines absolutely and totally. Consider this alliance. All of the PDP’s 28 MLAs are Muslim. Of the BJP’s 25 MLAs, 24 are Hindu. The Hindu MLAs thrashed a Muslim MLA over the beef issue. Their party did not punish them.
This religious division is of course geographical. I read 20 years ago in The Siege Within (by M J Akbar) of how the state was formed. Kashmir was sold by the British to the Dogras of Jammu for their betrayal of Punjab. The religious division has now become political also.
Second, across India there is extreme hostility towards Kashmiri Muslims, fuelled by a reckless, terrorism-obsessed media. Two stories from the last two weeks will illustrate this. Goa’s anti-terrorism squad conducts door-to-door checking of individuals from Kashmir, presumably because they are all up to no good.
And Kashmiri students at Mewar University were arrested (wrongly) on the suspicion of cooking beef. The police justified their arrest by saying they were in fact being protected from a Bajrang Dal lynch mob.
There are other stories but these will suffice. How would a Kashmiri Muslim react to them? It is not difficult to imagine. What is strange is that we want them to cheer for their tormentors.
It is being reported that security forces besieging terrorists in Kashmir are now being stoned by locals as they fight. This is remarkable because violence in Kashmir is at its lowest levels ever. It began in the late 1980s with a few dozen deaths and by 1990 terrorism and counter-terror operations were claiming 1,000 lives a year. This peaked in 2001 (4,507 deaths). After the Parliament attack, and Musharraf’s banning of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, terrorism began to decline each year. Deaths fell from 3,022 in 2002 to 2,542 the next year to 1,810 in 2004. Violence in Kashmir kept decreasing and deaths went under 1,000 in 2007. By 2011, the number was under 200 each year and has remained there.
If terrorism is ending why is the hostility picking up? My guess is that it is the Pakistani army’s mischief that has more or less ended. The violence by locals is in fact back to the levels of the 1980s and that will be dismaying to those of us familiar with those days.
Last year, the killing law called AFSPA completed 25 years in Kashmir. Readers may not know that the law allows the Indian government to lift immunity for those personnel against whom Kashmir’s police have evidence of rape, murder, torture and kidnap. These individuals may then be tried in a civilian court.
Do you know the number of cases for which the government of India has allowed this to happen? Zero. If you are a Kashmiri victim, sorry. India’s justice is not for you. Forget the great words of our Constitution.
Why did Jawaharlal Nehru renege on the plebiscite? He thought we would lose. Whether or not that was true in the 1950s, I can assure you it is true of Kashmir today. And it is a measure of how awful we have become as a people that there is no reaching out to them — observe the manner in which the BJP made Mehbooba Mufti grovel — to reassure them that we mean well (if in fact we do).
The intense, anti-Muslim passion for nationalism we have discovered under the BJP has already done the damage. Kashmiris have full freedom to shout Bharat Mata ki jai, but what else? We don’t really care. So long as they fake support of India in cricket, we are happy.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.