Cricket heartbreak exposes depth of Hindutva malignancy in India
By Hana Ahmed
Last October 24, all hell broke out for India’s Muslims, and the residents of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, when Pakistan trounced India in the first ICC Men’s T20 World Cup match — the international cricket championship for the shortest version of the game.
For Pakistan, and indeed for Muslims in South Asia, where cricket is king, this was a major milestone: Pakistan had finally broken its ten-year losing streak against rival India.
When Pakistan won, both the Kashmiris living in the occupied state and Muslims in parts of India celebrated this historic victory with unbounded fervour. The festive mood, however, was abruptly ended.
The colonial Indian setup, addressing this as an expression of “anti-national” behaviour, accused the Kashmiris of “sedition” to apply the feared Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) so many of them could be arrested and tortured. This draconian act enables New Delhi to designate any individual as a terrorist and arrest people under the guise of “protecting” India’s sovereignty and interests.
Meanwhile, Indians harassed and attacked Kashmiris, especially in the northern state of Punjab. Kashmiri students nationwide feared for their lives as they faced threats, harassment and abuse from enraged Indians. Also noteworthy is that cricket is a big betting item. Thus, one can understand the rage when not only betting sites, but also India’s cricketing greats, had predicted an Indian triumph.
This is not the first time that such violence has happened. In 2014, 60+ Kashmiri students were arrested for supporting Pakistan in the Asia Cup One-Day [50 overs version] cricket tournament. On April 4, 2017, Kashmiri cricketers of the Baba Darya Ud Din club uploaded a video of them wearing Pakistani jerseys and singing that country’s national anthem; the police promptly arrested them. The Indian Express headline of that day proclaimed “Defiance at play as Kashmiri cricket team sports Pakistan colours, starts the match with the anthem.”
In 2016, Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri students at the National Institute of Technology Srinagar clashed over India’s loss to West Indies in the World Twenty20 semi-final. Kashmiri students supported the West Indies, whereas Indians cheered for their home team (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35984097). The federal government sent paramilitary forces and ordered the then Indian-installed Kashmir “chief minister” Mehbooba Mufti to ensure the Indian students’ safety in the occupied state.
This is the true nature of the Indian state and its people: A violent colonial entity that enforces oppressive controls through its state apparatus to justify the torture, harassment and killing of Kashmiris over the loss of a single cricket match. Hindutva, the reactionary fascist version of Hinduism that propelled Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Parishad (BJP; Indian Peoples Party) to power, has resulted in the otherization of Indian Muslims and Kashmiri Muslims and thereby allowing such horrendous violations of autonomy and political beliefs to occur.
At the Bhai Guru Das Institute of Engineering and Technology in Sangrur, Punjab, Kashmiri students were attacked and assaulted in their dorm rooms after India lost the Oct. 24 match. One of the students live-streamed the assault on Facebook as their attackers burst into their room and started beating them with rods and poles. Their rooms were ransacked and their windows smashed while their attackers, identified as students from Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, continuously shouted that they were “Pakistanis.”
In a desperate attempt to save themselves from injury or possible death, many of the Kashmiri students locked themselves in their rooms; at least six were injured. They spoke with the college administration, which assured them that the incident would be investigated. Nasir Khuehami, the spokesperson for Jammu and Kashmir Student Association, told Free Press Kashmir that he received alarming calls from students across colleges in Punjab after India lost the match (Oct. 25, 2021, Mohsina Malik, “Kashmiri students attacked in Punjab as India loses cricket match to Pakistan”).
In Agra (UP), Kashmiri students Arsheed Yusuf, Inayat Altaf Sheikh and Showkat Ahmad of the Raja Balwant Singh Engineering Technical College were arrested and suspended for allegedly uploading WhatsApp statuses in favour of the Pakistani team (https://freepresskashmir.news/, Oct. 28, 2021). According to the college authorities, however, they didn’t post any celebratory messages about Pakistan. They were charged with sedition after BJP members protested at the campus and filed a police complaint against them on Oct. 27. The teachers reportedly told the arrested students’ families that their wards were safe.
Mohammad Shaban Ganie, the father of Showkat Ahmad Ganie, and Shabir Ahmad Sheikh, the uncle of Inayat Altaf Sheikh, appealed to Jammu and Kashmir lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath — a Hindu monk, to boot — to release them on humanitarian grounds.
Four other Kashmiri students were charged in Agra as well. Following their arrest, many Kashmiri students fled back home fearing for their safety.
As the arrested students’ families were too poor to pay for lawyers, Khuehami and his team arranged a lawyer so family members could meet their wards. The case is ongoing, but Khuehami told Free Press Kashmir that it might be moved to Mathura, as the situation in Agra is tense. He has requested Yogi Adityanath to drop the charges and revoke their suspension.
Khuehami told Al Jazeera that at least 14 Kashmiri students were assaulted across India following the cricket loss, with seven suffering serious injuries (Oct. 25, 2021).
Ironically, before the start of the India-Pakistan T20 World Cup match in Dubai, the Indian team had taken a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
On Oct. 25, dorm officers and students at the Srinagar Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) and Government Medical College (GMC) were charged after videos spread on social media of them cheering for Pakistan. Two cases were filed under UAPA in the Karan Nagar and Soura police stations. A police report filed in Soura stated that from Oct. 24-25, SKIMS students had raised pro-Pakistan slogans and celebrated with fireworks. A similar report was lodged at Karan Nagar police station against GMC students.
An anonymous female medical student at GMC stated, “Such doctors are a risk for humanity. How will they treat the soldiers posted in Kashmir only God knows!”
Across Indian media outlets, defamation and slander of Kashmiris have been rampant and routine.
Vikram Singh Randhawa, a Jammu BJP leader, said that those who had commemorated Pakistan’s win should be skinned alive, their Indian “citizenship” revoked and be charged with sedition. He added that Pakistani blood runs in the Kashmiris’ veins and they should be beaten and skinned alive for it. He also moaned, “None of them celebrated Pakistan’s win against Afghanistan. Did their mother die that day? It is only a win against Kaafirs [disbelievers] they celebrate. These kathmullas (a Hindu derogatory term for Muslims) give divorces on mobile. They should also pray nimaaz on WhatsApp. Why do they occupy public spaces for it?”
These abuses and unjust arrests are but an example of the deep fascism permeating India’s political consciousness and state apparatus. This horrific violence is not due solely to a few biased individuals, the BJP or the Congress Party. This is India in its true form, an Islamophobic nation that espouses the settler colonization and genocide of the Kashmiris since its 1947 invasion and occupation of the state.
Hana Ahmed is a U.S.-based student originally from an Indian-occupied Kashmir.