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Our Horrifying Experience Of Being Indian Cricket Fans In Kashmir

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Though there are many conflicts among followers of Islam, a majority of them support the obligation that requires them to mourn the death of fellow Muslims for four days. This eventually ends with the Rasm-e-Charum (where special prayers are offered to the deceased on the fourth day of mourning).

Shockingly and paradoxically, just after 48 hours of their funerals, many people in Kashmir chose to ignore the sacrifices of six Kashmiris, because grieving their deaths would have prevented them from expressing joy over Pakistan’s victory in the Champions Trophy final.

While Ada and Simran, daughters of the slain station house officer (SHO) Feroz Dar, were missing their father, numerous religious bhakts swarmed to the streets and burst firecrackers to express their hatred for India and love for Pakistan. Also, those bhakts whose ‘resistance movement’ is only limited to social media, who habitually storm to social networking sites to advertise their ‘anguish’ over ‘bloodshed in Kashmir’, didn’t have much to say about the brutal murder of SHO Feroz.

Two militants, six policemen, and two civilians, all of them Kashmiris, were killed on Friday (June 16). However, within 48 hours, religious dogmatists and the custodians of azaadi chose to forget them by relishing the phenomenal performance of the Pakistani cricketers.

After all, no one really likes to mourn – and religious zealots are no exception.

Apparently, the state of mourning took a back seat when Fakhar Zaman manoeuvred the many poor deliveries to the boundary. Right from the beginning, nearly every shot from Fakhar was followed by the bursting of a firecracker, though spasmodically. The situation, however, had metamorphosed into a frenzy by the time Sarfaraz leaped to claim the catch of Bumrah, to win the match.

An Indian fan watches the India-Pakistan Champions Trophy final at the Oval, England
Did the India-Pakistan nationalistic antagonism prevent us from enjoying the Champions Trophy final, after all? (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Zakir Hussain, a native of Kargil, who is pursuing his post-graduation from Kashmir University, is currently living in Hyderia colony of the Bhagwanpora area in Srinagar district. He distinctly narrates the horrifying experience.

“We, who are from Kargil, live in a separate colony. There is a deep-rooted stereotype among Kashmiris that we all are ‘Hindustani supporters’, and this could have stimulated many Pakistani bhakts. They hurled some five or six powerful fire bombs at our lawns. I was offering the Isha’a namaz (last prayer of the day offered by Muslims). The moment I prostrated myself to chant my prayers, a loud ear-piercing bang shook me and I ran to a window, bewildered, to see what was happening.”

 “They were around 13 to 15 young boys. Their coarse sloganeering terrified me and I felt the fear creeping upon me.”

“I glanced at my friend, who had never visited Kashmir before. His eyes were brimming with tears. He’s just 18 years old, and evidently this kind of chaotic situation had completely shaken him up. He requested me to stay by his side.”

Hassina, 23, a postgraduate student in Kashmir University who hails from the Jammu province and lives in the university hostel, also recollects her terrifying experience.

“The four students from the Jammu province came to my room and we conversed about the possible ramifications of the India-Pakistan final for a while. All of us had a premonition that we would be humiliated for not supporting Pakistan. The demons heard us talking!”

“A few minutes later, as we were performing Isha’a prayers, a ruckus erupted just outside our room. I stopped my prayers to request them to leave us alone. The moment I opened the door, a mob of 30-40 girls collectively shouted mean, discriminatory and racist invectives at us.”

 “Joh pakistan ko support nahin karta woh gaddar hai, gaddar hai. (One who doesn’t support Pakistan is a traitor.)” 

 “Hindustan ke player kutte hai. Kutte hai. (Indian cricketers are dogs. They are dogs.)”

 “Subliminally, I wanted to tell them that comparing any human being with a dog is indecent and completely immoral. But given their ecstatic behaviour and the state of euphoria, I dared not! There was only one way to brush them off. I earnestly called for their humaneness (if they had any) to let us worship the God we all believed in.”

“My entreaty was rejected. In fact, the opprobrium got a new lease of life. They started chanting the slogans with a greater fervour, and continued to bully and browbeat us. The drama continued till late at night. As a result, we couldn’t perform the special prayers on Shab-e-Qadar (the sacred night in the month of holy Ramadan) for which almost every Muslim patiently waits throughout the year.”

 Another friend of Hassina, who also hails from Jammu, describes her experience of the night.

“Spending some time with Hassina gave me some solace. Eventually, I sauntered back to my room. There, I was greeted  with a derogatory phrase from one of my close friends. She said, ‘Tumhara mooh kala hua aaj. (Today, your face is black.)’ ”

 The torture didn’t end up here. Next day, when Hassina went to her department in the university to attend classes, she was shocked to see that the the usual pleasantries like ‘assalamulaikum‘, ‘hello’, ‘hi’ had all vanished. Instead, she was labelled as a ‘Hindustani’ and a ‘gaddar’.

Hassina is absolutely devastated by this sudden and harsh experience. Though she has been previously branded as a Hindustani on many occasions, this incident has significantly changed her thoughts about living in Kashmir. Following this, she has even advised her 20 non-Muslim friends not to take admission in Kashmir University. She said to them, “Musalmaan hoke mujhse itni badsalooki hoti hai, tum non-muslims ke saath kya hoga, soch lo! (Despite being a Muslim, I am scorned. Think what will happen to you, who are are not Muslims!)” In fact, Hassina is now counting her days in Kashmir University and she has vowed never to come back to Kashmir in her life.

Another student of Kashmir University. Showkat Wanie, 24, who lives in the area around the famous Manasbal Lake, has also shared his experience.

Though I have never publicised the fact that I am a Virat Kohli fan, I was shocked when one of my friend pointed at my beard, and said, ‘Virat Kohli ki beard rakhi hai, gaddar. (You have grown a beard like Virat Kohli’s, you traitor.)’ ”

“The majority of my classmates singled me out in class, and all of them branded me as a gaddar. I was animalised as if I was an alien and a lesser human being.”

“Dekho! Woh tehra gaddar. (Look! There’s your traitor.)” 

“One of them shouted at me, saying, ‘Hardik Pandya is like a dog and whoever supports him is also a bloody dog.’ “

 A friend of mine, who has zero interest in cricket and rarely watches television, narrates her experience.

I was sitting idly in the class, when a friend who works with a reputed Indian newspaper came to me. Intoxicated with joy, he asked my opinion on the India-Pakistan match. I replied to him that I don’t watch TV. His response to my argument shocked me. He said, ‘Tumhara janaza nahin aayega. (You won’t receive an Islamic funeral.)’ “

In an article I had written previously, I had mentioned my support for Virat Kohli. I was bullied, manhandled, brutalised and scorned in Kashmir university, because I had shared that article on my Facebook timeline, thereby making everyone acquainted with the fact that I supported Kohli.

One of my classmates even threw a Pakistani cricket uniform on my face, on which the words ‘Shahid, 10’ were written. I got scared and decided to leave the place.

The person egged me on by saying, “Wahan kahan jaoge, wahan sab sabz hai! (Where are you going – everything around here is green!)”

When these bhakts saw that I was recording their abusive banter, they were initially amazed – but a moment later, they resorted to more bullying.

A classmate said, “Hindustaniyoon ke liye yahan koi jagah nahin hai. (There is no space for Indians here in Kashmir.)”

This was but a small ‘tussle’ between India and Pakistan. I am afraid of the day when Kashmir will get its independence. What will happen to the people who don’t agree to the majority viewpoint? I am smelling deviousness in the atmosphere. Will the opposition in the then-independent Kashmir meet the same fate which the people opposed to the ISIS are subject to, in ISIS dominated areas? Will they be censured, or will their heads be chopped off?

This entire experience has deeply impacted me. Tears rolled down my cheeks throughout this ordeal, because I had never expected my classmates to castigate me for such a petty issue. Now, I feel nothing but pity for the religious bigots who shamelessly conflate cricket with religion – who bullied my friends and me, just because we appreciate good cricket and not the religion of the players. I wish that the filthy mentality of the people who dehumanised us for not agreeing to their ludicrous rants, can soon be purged.

I am a fan of cricket – and till the day Virat Kohli plays good cricket, I will be his fan!

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