A Muslim teacher in the Indian state of Rajasthan was fired from her job after she celebrated Pakistan’s win over India in the T20 World Cup, according to reports in Indian media.
This and other similar religiously divisive incidents after the match, however, do not undo the memories of a harmonious past between sportsmen and their fans from India and Pakistan.
A Kashmiri journalist Aakash Hassan tweeted that police in Indian occupied Kashmir has registered cases against students and some staff members of the two main medical colleges in Srinagar for ‘raising anti-India slogans’ and ‘celebrating victory of Pakistani cricket team’ after the T20 World Cup match in Dubai on Sunday.
According to other media reports, two Pakistani students were attacked in Bangladesh by Indians after the match.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Shami, the only Muslim player in the Indian team, was declared a ghadar (traitor) on social media and ridiculed as the ‘man behind the Indian team’s defeat’. The term Ghadar is still trending on Twitter in India and Pakistan.
On the other side, a top-ranking Pakistan TV channel ran a headline, ‘Babar nay Hindustan fatah kr leya (Babar has conquered Hindustan)’, just a few seconds after Pakistan’s big win.
Another known private channel broadcasted the same wording in its news bulletin, linking the Pakistani cricket team’s success to the victory of the founder of the Mughal Empire Zaheerudin Babar in 1526 in the battleground of Panipat.
Moreover, Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed equated Pakistan’s win with the victory of Islam in a video message. “Pakistan has proven its abilities in the entire Muslim world. Emotions of Muslim Ummah and Muslims of India were also with the Pakistani cricket team [during the match],” declared the minister. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary adopted a similar line of thinking and tweeted that the victory of the Pakistani team renewed spirit and enthusiasm in the hearts of Kashmiri and Indian Muslims.
Hindutva supporters also blamed Muslims for the loss of the Indian team. Although they have a history of attacking Muslims, Kashmiris, and other minorities across India, some Pakistani politicians and religious leaders too never let the chance to mix sports with nationalism go.
Self-proclaimed custodians of nationalism on both sides of the border vehemently oppose Pak-India cricket ties and other links between the two neighbours. Unlike them, most of the population in the two countries passionately want resumption of sports and love players of each other’s teams.
In the past we have seen such sportsmanship between the two nations on many occasions. In the 2004 ODI series between the two arch-rivals in Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium, the entire Pakistani crowd chanted the name of the famous Indian pacer Lakshmipathy Balaji.
Way back in 1999 in Chennai, the whole stadium was on its feet, magnanimously applauding Pakistan’s triumph over India in a test match. The touring team took a victory lap around the ground with the spectators cheering them on.
Pakistan’s former skippers Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, and ‘Rawalpindi Express’ Shoaib Akhtar always received great admiration from Indian fans as well. Meanwhile, for many Pakistani youngsters, Virat Kohli, who displayed true sportsmanship spirit after Sunday’s match, is always a star. Pakistani cricketer Shahnawaz Dhani also chimed in friendly sentiments and proudly posted his picture with MS Dhoni on Twitter following the match and declared the former Indian captain as his dream player.
Indian cricketers are not the only ones who enjoy popularity in Pakistan, other Indian sportspeople have also garnered fans.
In 1952, hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand was invited as chief guest for Pakistan’s Independence Day celebrations. Dhyan, along with some other Indian players, made a train journey from Delhi to Peshawar, in a two-day journey covering the 800km distance because of the overwhelming reception by massive crowds at every railway station along the way. Station platform tickets ran out as people arrived in droves to welcome ‘The Wizard’ of field hockey.
Sport is the only field where players win the other nation’s hearts by showing love and respect towards each other. They might be fighting a battle for their country when the game is on, but after the game, they all are players and deserve all the support and appreciation from their nations.