Veteran Cricketer Sunil Gavaskar has his own theory about Shahid Afridi using the rhetoric of receiving immense love from India, more than from Pakistan Cricket teams in Indian stadiums. That may or may not be the case. The direct impact of the statement, however, is that while Afridi has been applauded on this side of the border, he has invited trouble for himself in his own home turf. The extremists among conservatives in Pakistan may be now be baying for his blood. Two months ago, a Pakistani die hard fan for Indian batsman Virat Kohli was arrested for hoisting the Indian Tri-Colour atop his home in Punjab province and may face up to 10 years imprisonment, if the court verdict goes against him.
Seven decades after the sub-continent was partitioned while India moved towards a sustained and stable democracy, her neighbors including Pakistan have been grappling with the demons and dilemmas of identity caught between Islamic assertion and secular aspirations, democracy and military dictatorship. With such dilemmas dictating the discourse iconising ultra-nationalism in national flags, soldiers, slogans and cricket, while propping up a very narrow definition of what is nationalistic, should not totally come as a surprise. But when a similar discourse becomes pre dormant in India, it is a cause of alarm. On this side of the fence, India is fast emulating as a mirror image of Pakistan by emulating that is wrong with the latter. How does the incarceration of Virat Kohli fan or Shahid Afridi’s criticism appear any different from the manner in which Amir Khan has been sidelined for his intolerance remark, JNU students and a Kashmiri professor criminalized for organizing an event to commemorate Afzal Guru’s anniversary or raising of some alleged slogans of which there is no evidence. Most recently, a Muslim legislative assembly member hounded out of legislative assembly for refusing to say “Bharat mata ki Jai”?
The liberty and the rights enjoyed by every Indian citizen flow from its lofty constitution by virtue of which every citizen has the right to criticize the functioning of the Government and bringing pertinent questions of public and political importance in the public discourse provided there is no provocation or open call for violence and disrupting communal harmony. So why does anyone even need to get agitated over increasing intolerance in India, why writers have given up their awards in protest or why someone refused to sing the national anthem hoist the national flag or raise the slogan in praise of motherland. Similarly, if democratic rights guarantee to every citizens, the choice of hailing his or her motherland or having the liberty to use his own vocabulary to express his respect for the country. It is also a democratic right to express one’s views about another country. Respecting another country’s flag and anthem or even loving another country cannot be criminalized nor construed anti-patriotic, unless the act goes against the interests of one’s own country. If Indian can love America, Canada eulogize its leaders and icons, why not Pakistan? Pakistan has not been officially declared an enemy country. With much of Pakistan many parts of India share a cultural and linguistic affinity. Our history is shared, only our geography is divided by a quirk of historical event. Our fields end their begins, our meadows mountains and streams merge into one another. Our love of poetry, films, jokes, music, and food is too similar. What is that we’d like to hate about Pakistan or Pakistan about India? Which line of the verse should one hate? And which part of the mountain sliced cruelly into two by the partition should one begin to a Bohr? That I fail to understand. The lack of democracy and inequalities in Pakistan should be certainly something that many in the neighborhood including Pakistan hold in awe. Should they be prosecuted by eulogizing that? One may surely not agree with a Pakistan Zindabad slogan in India but can one counter such slogans with rational debate? If that had been the case, the discourse would have revealed the multi-layered realities of such slogans-some indeed borne out of the mischief. But there would also be the metaphors of oppression. Many of these slogans are often linked to Kashmir-my homeland. The nature of politics of Kashmir is too complex where the word Pakistan would not relate to an idea as a monolith. To different people it would mean different things- Trouble maker, unreliable or a supporting friend, Pakistan would be used as part of an ideology by those who believe that Kashmir should be part of Pakistan and those who use oppression of anger against oppression how much of this Pakistan can be taken out of Kashmir by criminalizing it and by starting a discourse that treat just disuse enters but all of Kashmir as an enemy of the nation? The more it is crushed, the stronger the rebellion will rise. Whether or not it charts a course of rationality and progressiveness or not. The need for debating and discussing Kashmir as part of the mainstream national discourse is far more crucial today. Discussing it does not necessarily means agreeing with Kashmiri prospective. Discussion and debate is the only civilized and democratic way. It takes nothing, it cannot shake or weaken a nation but only makes a nation capable of thinking and capable of greater accommodation. Isn’t, that the core essence of the Indian constitution after all.