When Sanam Marvi sings, sedition and other such concepts seem utterly meaningless. You have to hear her to know what I’m saying. She is a Pakistani, so be careful in rooting for her, especially if you are a Kashmiri sick of having soldiers as your perpetual cohabitants.
I, however, can’t help the fact that I like the Pakistani version of fusion music programme Coke Studio more than the wannabe version we have in India. (Thanks to YouTube which, ironically, is banned in Pakistan.)
Worse, I’ve been to Lahore — a trip that was more sacred to me than any pilgrimage. It is the land of my ancestors, so I want to visit Pakistan again, even if those visa stamps on my passport jeopardise my plans to visit the West someday. I also dare believe that the Punjab on the Other Side is The Punjab, while ours is more like a suburb of a sparkling city.
And if that is not enough, as yet, to charge me with sedition or desh-droh, here’s something that should certainly land me my first criminal charge.
GUILTY AS CHARGED: I rooted for Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup semifinal versus India in Mohali.
When our cooperative neighbours dropped Sachin Tendulkar at least five times to ensure that India reached the final, I was crestfallen. I had been shouting ‘Come on…Pakistan’ throughout, and my throat deserved some solace.
The final aside, this was the match of the tournament, and I thought Pakistan deserved victory more than us. Why? Because, while our team was playing for Sri Sri 1008 Sachin Ji Maharaj and was tipped to win anyway, a victory for underdogs Pakistan would have been a victory for the team sport of cricket, a much more meaningful endeavour.
For a moment, in fact, when Yuvi was bowled for nought on his home ground with a swinging full toss, I thought the entire stadium was on Pakistan’s side. But, well, Mohali has never really liked its snooty homeboy and was happy to laugh at his first-ball duck. Otherwise, I was on the losing side even in the slogan-shouting department, barring the occasional ‘Preity Zinta Zindabad’ when the dimpled beauty showed up right above us in the VIP lounge balcony and everyone joined me in welcoming her.
I’m a Punjabi, supposedly more macho and patriotic than my Kashmiri friends. That’s perhaps why my sloganeering was not seen as sedition, and I did not face much backlash at Mohali except competing slogans of ‘Sachiiin... Sachin!’ They must’ve thought I am a Punjabi ‘from the other side’. Thank God, I’m not marked out as a Kashmiri.
For some boys from the Valley at Swami Vivekanand Subharti University in Meerut (UP), cheering for Pakistan during a recent Asia Cup match versus India meant suspension from the university and a case under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code that deals with sedition. It required an appeal from J&K CM Omar Abdullah to his UP counterpart, Akhilesh Yadav, for sedition charges to be dropped. But charges of promoting enmity between groups and causing mischief remain.
Then the worst part played out, as usual, on TV. As the Saviour of the Nation raged on, a couple of those Kashmiri boys had to insist that they believed their Heaven on Earth was a part of India; that they w were cheering for Afridi, not Pakistan; and that they were pro-India patriotic. The farce was not lost on anyone, nor was the fact that fans’ love for the affable Pathan, Shahid Khan Afridi, is universal.
Even if those boys shouted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, charging them with sedition for views that don’t match a popular notion of patriotism is a tragedy that hurts democracy. Of course, my Pakistan love is different from theirs; but that can be put in perspective if you acknowledge the military siege in Kashmir. Such reckless use of an archaic law only escalates the alienation of the Valley from our increasingly and rabidly aggressive idea of India.
Therefore, the questions were being put to the wrong side. It is us, patriotic Indians, who need to explain why some Kashmiris pledge allegiance to Pakistan, in cricket or otherwise. But we remain so far away from those questions — in our zealous, selfrighteous pursuance of an identity based on nationalism — that the day is not far when sedition charges would be pressed against student unions who invited the golden-voiced Arif Lohar from Pakistan for a concert at Chandigarh’s Panjab University.
Or, perhaps they will be spared since the Punjabis’ loud naach-gaana culture transcends national borders, and our nostalgic affection is understandable, while Kashmir is a non-negotiable trophy that has no feelings of its own.