When Sohail Tanveer says “Hinduyon ki zehniyaat aisi hai” or when Shoaib Malik thanks all the Muslims in the world for supporting Pakistan or when Afridi says that Muslims (by which he means Pakistanis exclusively) have much bigger hearts than Indians, I understand. I understand that for these people, Pakistan is synonymous with Muslims and India is synonymous with Hindus. You cannot blame the Pakistanis for that—-they have and are systematically removing their non-Muslim minorities (read this for a slice of minority life in the Land of the Pure) for which the equivalence they make between Muslims and Pakistan is not ridiculous at all. On the other hand, their refusal to acknowledge the presence of Muslims in India is natural. If they did, it would be a big middle finger to the basic premise of their existence—-that Hindus and Muslims cannot co-exist together peacefully. Being brought up in an educational system that teaches them that they beat India in 1971 (despite the small fact that they signed a document of surrender) and that Hindus (=Indians) are responsible for many heinous acts directed at the country including depriving them of water, I do not expect any different.
What though never ceases to shock me is how this same Muslims=Pakistan equation is made by so-called Indian “liberals” (I use the “” around the liberals because I think they are anything but liberals). Which is why anyone (like me) who doe not endorse Asha-Aman with Pakistan, because of the fact that they have refused to take action against 26/11 perpetrators and sheltered fugitives from the Indian law, is dubbed as an Islamophobe. (This comment was made on a previous post). The assumption is heinous—namely that not liking Pakistanis is same as not liking Muslims. It is an accusation, which if opt repeated, serves the purpose of shutting up any kind of opposition because no one likes to be considered prejudiced against a particular religion, particularly when they are not.
Now I have said before, many times, why I hold “Pakistan” in its entirety as the party responsible for 26/11 rather than the “misguided minority section of Pakistani youth” angle our Afridirals (prefer to use that instead of “liberal”) would like us to believe. (This explains why they want us to lay out the red carpet for the Pakistani cricket team and in general slide up to Gilani from the side and press ourselves against his hyper-active arms).
To summarize why I make this association.
1. 26/11 was implemented and financed by sections of the Pakistani establishment. This is beyond doubt.
2. The Pakistani establishment has steadfastly refused to bring to justice anyone associated with 26/11.
3. The government that protects the perpetrators is democratically elected and the reason offered by most Pakistan watchers as to why 26/11 criminals would not be brought to justice is that “popular reaction” to such a move would cause the government to fall. This shows very clearly where the public sympathy lies.
4. From even a cursory glance through Pakistani media and online boards, one would see that Pakistanis either 1) consider 26/11 as trivial or 2) consider 26/11 to have been done by Indians. Both of them are nothing but justifications.
5. From the overwhelming support for blasphemy laws, the murder of even “pseudo-liberals” like Taseer and the lionization of their killers, it should be fairly obvious that the Pakistani awaam by and large, are not very tolerant of people who are not of their “religion”.
6. Unlike Americans who also provide the most trenchant criticisms of their own policies of aggression with a sizeable section of their population strongly condemning their own policies, the voice of dissent in Pakistan for their supporting of terrorism in India is almost absent. Even when muted voices are heard, they are accompanied by hundreds of caveats and thousands of moral equivalences.
The reason why I have made this lengthy pre-amble is so that I can make my point. Large-hearted Afridi’s hateful diatribe against Indians has been justified in some quarters (by Pakistani liberals and Indian Afridirals) as a reaction to Gautam Gambhir’s dedication of the victory to 26/11 victims and his reference to the fact that he was inspired by an Armymen (I do not know exactly what he said but from chatter on Twitter this is what I deduced). Mr. Vikram Sood, former director of RAW, in his blog says: [Link]
This reaction was possibly to Gautam Gambhir’s silly comment that he dedicated the Indian victory to Mumbai 26/11. This meant terrorism, which meant Lashkar e Tayyaba which ultimately meant Hafeez Saeed. This was not going to be acceptable to some in Pakistan
So why is this a “silly” comment? Is it “silly” because we as Indians are not supposed to refer to terrorism directed at us? Is it “silly” to let a tragedy on innocents affect a sportsman so personally that he refers to it in the moment of his greatest triumph? The fact that referring to a human tragedy like 26/11 could be taken as provocation by those who financed it is, for the want of a better word, laughable.
Let us assume that Gambhir said something more “aggressive” namely that replying to 26/11 was an inspiration for his performance. I do not know if he said it but some people on Twitter hinted that was the gist of his statements. I find nothing objectionable in that also. No serious literary critic would ever interpret an author’s creations in a historical, sociological and political vacuum. Similarly to expect a sportsman to remove any historical context from his performances would be an exercise in futility.
On the biggest stages that can be thought of, in face of physical and mental exhaustion and the ever-present fear of failure, sportsmen draw on inner wells of strength to provide that killer performance. This may be anything—-the desire to overcome poverty or to become a millionaire, the urge to prove a point to those that have written him off, the ambition of attaining immortality in the record books or the junoon to be part of an ideal bigger and nobler than oneself. Gambhir was merely honest in saying what one of his inspirations had been. Just as had been Pakistani sporting greats, who now come as special guests on Indian shows, who in politically less correct previous decades had said they were inspired by ancient Islamic conquerors of India.
Nothing wrong in either case, since players are nothing but the product of their times. Like all artists.
Fischer vs Spassky. Miracle on Ice—USA vs Russia 1980. Sports/sportsmen and politics have always gone hand in hand. It’s a point I made in my previous post “Asha Aman Ki Aisi Ki Taisi” albeit in a flippant way. To expect politics to stay separate from sports, especially in an atmosphere that exists between Pakistan and India, is to exhibit a surprising level of ostrich-like naivete. So this is why I embrace with nothing but understanding amusement the “positive” coverage of India in Pakistani media—–Exhibit 1 (where a bunch of butchers cheerfully talk about imposing “violence” on the Indians of the types usually done to “goshts” with happy chomps of their machetes), Exhibit 2 (where a Pakistani pressman accuses Indian IT engineers of tampering with the DRS to let Sachin survive) and Exhibit 3 (where a cricket expert says that the final was fixed). Most of my amusement however is reserved for this massively forwarded article by Asha-Aman guys, a positive message from Pakistan, which now given Afridi’s rant, seems to read like a parody. What is interesting is that even here, in its first para (according to my understanding) it says that the match was lost more due to Misbah and Umar Gul’s bad luck and Sachin’s good fortune, without even once acknowledging the most important thing—- that India outplayed Pakistan on merit and not due to “luck”.
And this refusal to accept defeat in sports as anything other than conspiracy or bad luck, I would say is a natural defense mechanism built in by nations to purge itself off the humiliation that is brought on by the political context of a sporting engagement, a context that cannot be just wished away.
Given the political atmosphere as it exists, sports will be affected. So will sportsmen. It’s not their fault.
Finally a personal message. To Mr. Gambhir. You sir have been one of my favorite players throughout the years—dependable, smart, not amazingly talented like Yuvi but always keenly aware of your limitations and playing by them. By remembering 26/11, a personal tragedy to many of us, you have only risen in our esteem.
People die when they stop breathing. Peoples die when they stop remembering.
Thank you. And not just for the Cup.