Herald View: We didn’t win, India lost
While Indian players exhibited grace after being defeated, a section of Indian fans singled out a Team India player Mohammad Shami for being a traitor
We won, exulted Indian cricket fans after being beaten comprehensively by Pakistan in the T20 World Cup. The spirit of cricket won, they elaborated while sharing photographs of a graceful Team India Captain Virat Kohli congratulating Pakistani players, patting their back. He and former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni won over cricket fans with their sporting gestures. But while the players exhibited grace, a section of Indian fans singled out a Team India player Mohammad Shami for being a traitor. Shami, a fast bowler, had a bad day in the field but so did other Indian bowlers. Pakistan’s openers batted through the Pakistan innings without being separated and none of the Indian bowlers managed to get them out. But it was Shami who was singled out by the rabble rousers. No prizes for guessing why. Indian media and the fans’ lack of common sense and sporting spirit is notorious.
They had kicked up a storm in a teacup during the Tokyo Olympic Games over javelin thrower and eventual gold medal winner Neeraj Chopra mentioning casually that his javelin was being used for practice by a Pakistani athlete. Chopra had to intervene and explain that this was not against rules and that the practice of using each other’s javelin was fairly common. The Prime Minister and chief ministers, who bask in reflected glory at the sporting success of Indian athletes, have always looked the other way when sporting spirit and common sense take a back seat. In the case of Shami too, they ignored the unfair trolling and left him to cope with the insults alone.
As if this was not bad enough, rabble rousers and police in north Indian states seem to have gone overboard in taking punitive action against Indian citizens for celebrating Pakistan’s victory. FIRs have been lodged, students have been rusticated, a school teacher has been sacked and a college has been shut down because they allegedly exulted at Pakistan’s victory. The school teacher’s WhatsApp message, ‘We won’, found its way to social media and the school promptly sacked her. Police in several states have acted on complaints and arrested the ‘traitors’. Conduct which at best could provoke verbal retorts, jokes or even counselling has been criminalised. The police might have acted to prevent the situation from turning ugly. But appeasement of rabble rousers, racists and mischief mongers does nothing to enhance our self-confidence as a nation. Such knee-jerk actions actually show us up as insecure, vulnerable and a less-than-confident nation.
The ‘Tebbit test’ of loyalty for migrants to England, proposed by Norman Tebbit in 1990, required migrants to root for England every time she played against India, Pakistan or the West Indies. But three decades later, even as players of colour from the Caribbean or the Indian subcontinent play for Team England, many British-Indian citizens root for India against England. It is silly to see this as betrayal and seditious. Europe is better off because of its long history of mixed marriages, which allow a couple, one British and the other spouse of Spanish origin, to root for either country in a play-off. India too will hopefully become a more mature and confident country in future. But in the meanwhile, our police, courts and the media need to display a little more common sense and sporting spirit. It is time to stop senseless protests against Muslim players, eateries, mosques and prayers. Imagine red necks in the US protesting against Indian temples, motels, eateries and ISKCON devotees dancing on the streets of New York.