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They never get it right

By reacting against Pakistan, India's extreme right does more harm than good. Shreevatsa Nevatia writes.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2013 00:18 IST

Pakistani troops cross the Line of Control, mercilessly killing two Indian jawans. As a country that is grieving and enraged, we do have the full right to demand that our government take the toughest possible stand, but by extending our outrage to the cricket pitch, the theatre and literary festivals, we are only adopting the adversary's language of provocation, while never trying to exceed or reject it.

The trouble started in Mumbai. After bullying nine Pakistani hockey players into returning home, the Shiv Sena took to intimidating Pakistan's women's cricket team. As a result of the Sena's threat and muscle, Pakistan's World Cup matches were shifted to Cuttack. Expectedly, no warm Odishi welcome awaited them. The BJP's student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), went on record to say that it would destroy the team's pitches before they took the field.

It has always been the extremist right-wing forces that have responded to any new incitement by Pakistan with an ill-thought-out aggression that conveniently gets disguised by a show of chest-thumping nationalism. Shiv Sena and ABVP activists need to be reminded that the ambitions of a Pakistani civilian are distinct from the excesses of Pakistan's army or its government. More importantly, this extreme fringe of our polity needs to be told that when trying to resolve a conflict with an enemy like Pakistan, the last thing you do is insult its cricket or its women.

It is important to remember that Pakistani sportspeople are subject to the very same narratives of religious intolerance that helped put Ajmal Kasab and his compatriots on a boat to Mumbai. But by choosing to play mainstream sport and in some cases, by interrupting gender binaries, they declare an alternative plurality which challenges Pakistan's social hegemony and oppression. India's right wing is only able to ape such a moral oppression. It cannot escape it.

The prevailing anti-Pakistan sentiment has also begun to seem all-pervasive. After having its play cancelled by the National School of Drama because of security threats, the Pakistani theatre group Ajoka staged its production at the Akshara Theatre in Delhi last weekend. But Ajoka has never been a stranger to intimidation. They were banned by Zia-ul-Haq for writing against extremism. They have had bombs go off outside venues in Pakistan. Even suicide bombers have paid them a visit. Sadly, they will now have to be mindful of such dangers when they perform in India too. Since confrontation obliterates the difference between our opponent and us, I have stopped turning the page when the home minister warns of terror brewing in saffron camps. I tend to read on.