The Pulwama terror attack is the bloodiest attack on India’s security forces ever since the terror attack in Uri in 2016. At least 42 CRPF personnel were killed when their vehicle was blown up by an improvised explosive device or IED explosion on the Srinagar-Jammu highway in the Awantipora area of the district. The attack has angered the people of India, with many sporting personalities venting their anger out on Twitter. The likes of Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Yogeshwar Dutt, Sushil Kumar, Bajrang Punia, Saina Nehwal and others all offered their condolences. Gambhir, who retired from all forms of cricket recently and has been vocal on a lot of issues, went one step further stating, “Yes, let’s talk with the separatists. Yes, let’s talk with Pakistan. But this time conversation can’t be on the table, it has to be in a battle ground. Enough is enough.”
Gambhir’s aggressive tone is nothing surprising. After any terror attack by Pakistan on Indian soil, a pattern emerges in the aftermath. There is widespread condemnation on social media, Bollywood and sports personalities vent their anger out on Twitter, channels show debates and there are visuals of ordinary citizens calling out for revenge against Pakistan while there is renewed call for tough military action against Pakistan. The 2016 terror attacks in Uri, which resulted in the death of 18 soldiers of the Indian Army, strained the relationship even further. “Priority is to expose Pak as country which sponsors terrorism. No question of playing cricket with such a nation,” the-then BCCI president Anurag Thakur had said about cricketing ties.
Too much at stake
This is the year of the ICC Cricket World Cup and India will play Pakistan in Manchester on June 16. It is THE marquee match of the tournament. There is plenty of pride at stake for cricketing fans of both nations. There is plenty riding financially for the International Cricket Council (ICC) and for world cricket. Will Pulwama be the final full stop in India vs Pakistan cricketing relations? Will India go the extra mile and boycott the game against Pakistan in Manchester due to the attacks in Pulwama? The answer is NO.
For all the bluster shown by the Indian public when it comes to taking revenge on Pakistan for a terror attack, they become awkwardly silent when it comes to an India vs Pakistan cricket match. “Keep politics away from sports.” “The players are not responsible for this situation.” This is the common mantra related by many individuals when it comes to a sporting contest. Sports are beyond politics. It is often stated that sports individuals are soft targets for the policies of a state.
The sad part is that the anger and bluster shown by the Indian fan will fizz out when it comes to the World Cup encounter. The people who head the game will not want to jeopardise a massive money-making opportunity. The ‘cricket fans’ will conveniently forget all the pain and talks about revenge to don the tri-colour and cheer for the team when they defeat Pakistan. The government will conveniently not want to interfere. Since it is election season, the Pulwama attack could potentially be used as an election sop. The sporting issue will just endure another year of stalemate.
Will India follow England’s lead and not play a league game in the Cricket World Cup like they did in 2003? In 2003, England’s players faced plenty of domestic pressure to boycott their game in Harare, Zimbabwe over the ‘atrocities’ committed by the Robert Mugabe regime at that time. The boycott resulted in England’s early elimination but they held on. Although atrocities and terrorism are a different dynamic, this falls under the prism of morality. For people who say keep politics away from sport, they conveniently forget about how sporting isolation played a small but significant part in the downfall of apartheid in South Africa.
The anger and calls for revenge are at fever pitch and will endure for a couple of days on social media. Any affirmative action expected? For an India vs Pakistan World Cup clash, the patriotism is replaced with jingoism.