India vs Pakistan more than just a game in Kashmir
In Jammu and Kashmir, the biggest worry is when there is a cricket match between India and Pakistan. While it may be just a game for the rest of the nation, here, life can be upended.
Srinagar: The possibility of rain in Melbourne failed to dampen the frenzy in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of the T20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan on Sunday. Among Google searches for 'Melbourne weather' from India over the 24 hours before the match, it was this northernmost state which logged in the highest numbers.
Here, life is full of worries. But the biggest worry is when there is a cricket match between India and Pakistan. While it may be just a game for the rest of the nation, in Kashmir, life can be upended.
"My son is studying outside J&K and I am very anxious about his well-being considering what happened with a few Kashmiri youths when Pakistan beat India last year," Mohammad Akram, 45, told The Bridge.
In the social media era, people here can get into trouble with just one WhatsApp status update post on Facebook and Twitter. Last year, a BJP politician from here demanded that Kashmiris who support Pakistan be skinned alive.
Last year in Samba, Jammu, police detained 'six-seven people' of Chak Manga Gujjran village near the international border for questioning after some alleged pro-Pakistan slogans following Pakistan's victory.
In a separate incident, an FIR was lodged against medical students of GMC, Srinagar, for celebrating Pakistan's win. The brunt was faced by three youths - Arsheed Yousuf, Inayat Altaf, and Showkat Ahmad Ganai. All in their early 20s, they were arrested last October on sedition charges in the northern city of Agra for sending WhatsApp messages 'against the country'.
The trio was released on bail After the Allahabad court said, "The unity of India is not made of bamboo reeds which will bend to the passing winds of empty slogans."
Student body urges peace
Keeping in view the current situation, the Jammu and Kashmir Student Association (JKSA) has urged the students of Kashmir who are enrolled in universities across the country to enjoy the game and to avoid making posts on social media
"We have urged Kashmiri students to remember their priority - education and career," said an official from the JKSA.
When asked if anyone will celebrate if Pakistan win against India, Sandeep Mawa, a Kashmiri Pandit, said, "No, that would be wrong. Pakistan is our enemy country. How can it be possible to eat India's food and celebrate for Pakistan, which is responsible for creating a law and order situation in our Kashmir."
In the eerie silence, a social media post by a young Kashmiri girl pursuing her Ph.D. at New Delhi's Jamia Milia University throws some light on the prevailing sentiment in Kashmir.
"Do you notice that no Kashmiri is posting anything about the India Pakistan match? Yes, you understand it well," her post said.
Ghulam Nabi, 47, a shopkeeper in Srinagar's downtown, told The Bridge that his only son is studying in Bangalore and he is concerned about him. "A game is a game, you can support anyone. But in the past, we witnessed how three students were booked for celebrating Pakistan's win. I pray that no untoward incident happens with Kashmiri students who are in different states of India," he said.
Nabi said people have different perceptions of Kashmiris across the country. "Even if you are a die-hard fan of the Indian cricket team, people may still doubt you. This negative mindset among the people leads to violence against Kashmiri students often," he said.
With the incident of the three Kashmiri students being detained in Agra still fresh in memory, the JKSA issued an advisory on Saturday.
"The political connotations and feelings attached to this game are very serious. So, students should enjoy the game with true sprit of sportsman. The students must understand that by cheering for any particular team, they are putting themselves in a vulnerable position. Their social media posts and actions can land them in trouble. Students must work towards keeping themselves safe in their varsities and accommodations and should think about their families back home. Games and sports are not just means of amusement but they teach us brotherhood and peace. These events must promote brotherhood and harmony, not violence," the notice said.