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First, a confession. I cheered for Shahid Afridi. I mean which genuine cricket lover wouldn’t? Two sixes, in the last over of a match that went down to the wire was nail-biting cricket. Would I have liked India to win? The question is a no-brainer. But should India losing keep me from cheering for the winning team, which in this case happened to be Pakistan?
So now that I have put it down in writing, confessed, in fact, to having cheered, should I expect to be charged with sedition? Maybe not, because I’m not Kashmiri, and therefore, at least in the Uttar Pradesh government’s eyes, I’m not anti-national. That is the point, isn’t it? So much outrage because the students who cheered were Kashmiri.
UP has withdrawn both the suspension and the sedition charge, but a lot of damage has been done. The students, part of the prime minister’s scholarship programme aimed at ‘integrating’ young Kashmiris has only ended up slotting them, stereotyping them, racially profiling them.
Questions must be asked, not of the Kashmiri students, but of the university and the UP government. How do they define sedition? Do they think Jawaharlal Nehru was ‘anti-national’, because he held the view that “the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with the wishes of people”?
Another important question arises. Why was the damage control exercise left only to J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah? Why did we not hear the home minister, or the Prime Minister, speak up? Clapping for Pakistan’s Afridi does not threaten India’s security. The silence of our leaders has only widened the gap between Kashmir and the rest of India and given 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed a chance to speak.
If integration lay at the heart of the scholarship, the university’s professors have failed, as have our leaders. Tomorrow, playing a match against Pakistan may be seen as anti-national by more than just the Shiv Sena.
Can we be a little more sporting — and tolerant — please?