The Pakistan vs India match on Sunday was thrilling for many reasons. It had all the ingredients required for a good contest. Playing their first match in group B of the Twenty20 World Cup, the men in green were calm and composed, and had victory in their mind right from the get-go. Captain Babar Azam’s decision to ball first upon winning the toss, showed he had a plan – one that would lead his squad to the finishing line. And it did. Pakistanis at home rejoiced the historic win that marked the country’s first international win against India in a world cup format. Critics revised their decision of ruling out the Pakistani squad and cricket fans all over the world witnessed a spectacular game. All ended well, but only it did not.
India’s pace bowler Mohammad Shami faced social media abuse by his own countrymen for losing against Pakistan. Hundreds of right-wingers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India, hurled horrible abuse towards Shami with some calling him a ‘traitor’ and alleging that he took money from Pakistan to perform poorly. As if that wasn’t enough, Muslim Kashmiri students in various colleges of Indian Punjab were brutally beaten up for celebrating Pakistan’s win. A teacher in Rajasthan was fired from her job at a private school for putting up a status in favor of this country. College students and staff in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) were booked under terrorism charges for celebrating Pakistan’s win. The truth is that the cases of rising intolerance in the neigbouring country would go on but there will be no space left in this paper to report them.
Under Modi, atrocities against Muslims in India and IIOJK have only witnessed a worrying surge so much so that sports which are said to bring countries together, led to a divide following the match on Sunday. What is worse is that even a celebrated cricketer who has taken over 800 wickets for his country, wasn’t spared, just because of the religion he practices. It is this hatred that led to the arrest of superstar Shahrukh Khan’s son Aryan in a flawed drug bust earlier this month.
The jingoism is costing lives and livelihoods in a country that once proudly called itself ‘secular’. While the international community looks the other way, it is on the people of India to decide their faith. Do they want more than half of its population to live under constant fear and duress or will they unite for change?