By Safeena Wani for Youth Ki Awaaz:
The tone was set right when the match began. Excitement surfaced the moment the Pakistani national anthem was played; many rose up in respect and some had their eyes welling up. When India’s anthem was played, many put their TV on mute.
Such gatherings saw many pro-Pakistan slogans raised with fervour. Sample this: “Pakistan se rishta kya… Lailahillalah (Our faith defines our relationship with Pakistan).” South Kashmir saw sloganeering of the more audacious kind: “Ham Pakistani hai… Pakistan hamara hai (We are Pakistani and Pakistan is ours).” In restive Nowhatta in Srinagar, the “occupational Indian regime” was decried in the slogans. “Hindustan se rishta kya… Jabri kabza aur kya (Unwanted union defines our relationship with India).”
Many locals made their loyalty towards Pakistani cricket team known loud and clear. A caretaker of Hazratbal shrine described how many people came to the shrine on Sunday to offer votive money for Pakistan’s victory. He said when he went to his home in the evening, he was amazed when his wife and daughter asked him to distribute packets of sweets they had made to mark Pakistan’s win.
Young or old, men or women, it was as if everybody in Kashmir was emotionally involved in the final showdown between two arch rivals. As Pakistan’s new bowling sensation Hasan Ali scalped the last Indian wicket, the entire state erupted into a celebration.
Kashmir witnessed such unprecedented and overzealous celebration of Pakistan’s win against India in the ICC Champions Trophy final on Sunday that it kept Indian armed forces on their toes.
“Such was the intensity of the celebrations that CRPF deployed with Zaina Kadal police station fired several rounds in the air. Apparently, they thought their lives might be in danger. It seemed like Kashmir was celebrating as if Azaadi was declared,” Mohd Ashraf, a wholesale garment dealer in Zaina Kadal, downtown Srinagar, told Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA). “Last night, the boys of our locality must have burst crackers worth a couple of lakhs of rupees,” he said.
As the state erupted in celebration, tension was high in some areas. Reports of Indian security forces using force to dispel the crowd flew thick and fast. On social media, Kashmiris were cautioning each other to avoid the routes dotted with bunkers, pickets and camps.
Feroz Din, a resident of Habak, claims to have witnessed one such incident himself. “We were watching the match inside our house when some local boys hooted at the CRPF after the first Pakistani wicket fell. This seemed to enrage the troops, who came chasing the boys and smashed our windowpanes,” he said.
The army troop stationed at Jageer camp, at the entrance of Doebgah village in North Kashmir’s Rafiabad, reportedly roughed up around 15 boys. One of them, Zahoor Ahmad (name changed), told YKA that the locals took to bursting crackers once it became evident Pakistan was going to win. “Soon an armoured vehicle of the Indian army arrived in our village. The boys started to run away and the army chased some of us and started beating and abusing us,” he said.
Allegedly, the army did the same thing in Rafiabad’s Achabal village shortly after. A village lad, Shaker Zia (name changed), told YKA that from Doebgah, the soldiers came to his village and started thrashing the lot that was celebrating, snatched their mobile phones asked them to report to the Jageer army camp the next day. “Today [Monday], we, along with the sarpanch and elders in our village, had to give in written that we won’t repeat it again,” he said.
CRPF spokesperson Yogesh Yadav told YKA they already had inputs that Kashmiris would hit the streets en masse to celebrate if India were to be losing the match. “When the same thing happened, some of them threw firecrackers at us at some places. However, we did not retaliate. But when some miscreants started pelting stones at us in certain places, we tried to maintain the situation by resorting to pellets and teargas shelling,” he informed.
Director-General of Jammu & Kashmir Police, S.P. Vaid had a different take. He said not a single firecracker was thrown into any police or CRPF camp. He said people were only celebrating on the streets and denied that any force was used against them.
When the state’s youth had hit the streets a few days ago to celebrate Pakistan’s win over Sri Lanka in the tournament, the security forces in the usually restive South Kashmir had to intervene to put a leash on the revelry. It is believed that the forces had vandalised cars and houses in the process and even beat up some people.
Reportedly, what made Sunday’s win particularly special for Kashmiris is that it came after repeated assaults by the security forces during nocturnal raids. “A cricket match between Pakistan and India is a catharsis for Kashmiris,” theorised Ather Zia, a Kashmiri-origin faculty member at the University of Colorado, on his Facebook timeline. “Staying in to watch the match, early fireworks in anticipation, daring Indian troops. Kashmiris make it look the war they have been long in [as much as India says otherwise].”
According to the grapevine, even militants turned up at certain places in South Kashmir and offered gun salutes to mark Pakistan’s victory. Otherwise synonymous with the militant funeral, the alleged gun salute became another talking point of the day.
Separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s residence ‘Nigeen’ was thronged by scores of youth from Downtown Srinagar. They urged him to join their celebrations and he duly obliged. He climbed onto his house’s boundary wall and waved at the supporters, who raised pro-Pakistan slogans. By then, senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani had already congratulated Pakistan cricket team for their maiden Champions Trophy.
The Hindu’s Kashmir correspondent, Peerzada Ashiq, shared a similar observation on Facebook. “If crackers are any sign, Kashmir is living World War 3 scenes. Skies lit. Bangs all around. Unprecedented.”
Gowher Ahmad, a student from Anantnag town, described the mood of the local youth, “Some took the match as if they were getting Azaadi from India. But one thing is for sure, the day Kashmir will get its freedom, celebrations won’t be any different.”
About the author: Safeena Wani is a Srinagar-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.