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Have we forgotten the 26/11 terror attack?

So, it's now official. Pakistan cricket team will tour India beginning Christmas Day this year to play three one-day international and two T20 matches in five Indian cities. Smruti Koppikar reports.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2012 01:48 IST
Smruti Koppikar

So, it's now official. Pakistan cricket team will tour India beginning Christmas Day this year to play three one-day international and two T20 matches in five Indian cities. When our venerated Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) first mooted it in July this year, I, like hundreds of others in this city, had reacted with a measure of disbelief and hoped that the series would not come to pass. Now we have the tour itinerary.

As an avid cricket fan, I should have been thrilled at the prospect of watching the matches. I am not. As a Mumbaiite, I feel let down by the idea that the boys-in-blue will play boys-in-green somewhere in my country with nary a thought to a wound that has festered since my city was attacked nearly four years ago. That Pakistani venture - state, non-state, whatever - took 166 lives, among them some of this city's bravest police officers.

Their families still suffer. Their wounds are still raw, they haven't been able to "move on", many of them believe that Indian government must find ways to "get even" with Pakistan. My wounds are raw too. None of us are likely to go and dig up pitches or pour oil on pitches to prevent the matches but as the Ombale family said: "we are pained, but what can we do?"

Cricketing ties between the countries have been complicated and carry the burden of a difficult past; they are necessarily a sub-text in our multi-layered and complex bi-lateral relations. But one need not be an international policy wonk or a geo-political analyst to have an opinion on the impending series. Simply put, it's a thenga, in Bombaiyya language, to all those of us in Mumbai waiting for justice - and closure - in the 26/11 terror attack case.

The BCCI and the Indian government seems to say: it doesn't matter much that the Pakistani establishment has steadfastly refused to cooperate in the investigation or take sufficient action against the 26/11 attack masterminds, let's host their cricketers on our soil and treat them with famous Indian hospitality. The World Cup semi-final last year was part of a tournament; it had to be played. But a bi-lateral series in India smacks of rank insensitivity to the Mumbaiite's mood towards Pakistan and its cricketers.

For many of us, there's a sense of betrayal, a perception that our wounds don't matter, a feeling that revenues from these cricket matches - to the Boards, sponsors, whoever else - carry more currency than our need for justice in the 26/11 attack. This government would have earned some admirers - and perhaps a few votes in 2014 - if it had linked the resumption of cricketing ties to demonstrated Pakistani action on the terror masterminds.

Suspending cricket ties with Pakistan was linked to the terror attack, not by us here in Mumbai, but by our central government. What has happened since to resume them? Of course, there are the usual arguments for and against playing cricket with Pakistan again, but none of them explain why a government that seemed to honour the Mumbaiite's mind-set then decided it's no longer worth it. Is it small mercy that the itinerary doesn't include the city? I, for one, won't be watching.