The game of cricket is the most popular sport in India. It evokes a variety of emotions among the audiences – from extreme forms of happiness, excitement to disappointment. Based on audience connect with the teams, these extreme forms of expressions are at display.
From an era where international cricket (between nations) was the most popular, a shift has occurred whereby club cricket has acquired extreme form of popularity. Indian Premier League (IPL) has become much more popular than international cricket. It is purely the commerce which has driven this shift. The national barriers are pushed into the background in this form of cricket as a particular regional team is represented by a mix of cricketers from multiple countries and regions within India. The audience while may support a regional team – it is in reality a myth – the local players in reality may not be part of the team and is represented more by non-local and outside players.
However, in the changed conditions too, cricket is used as a means of spreading national chauvinism and minority hatred. For decades, cricket has been used as a means for spreading hatred against Muslims and Pakistan by communal sections in the country. This is particularly in the context of India-Pakistan matches. Instant Nationalists get created based on how much one supports India and hates Pakistan. A game becomes a battle. A sport becomes a war. The sporting event becomes a test for the Muslim minorities in the country to prove their nationalism.
An India-Pakistan encounter becomes the perfect time for the Hindu communalists to use it as a means to spread the communal venom. This becomes a perfect opportunity for them to create and strengthen the stereotype about an Indian Muslim that they support Pakistan and celebrate victory of Pakistan. In the encounter, if by chance Pakistan wins, it becomes a more perfect opportunity for the Saffron forces to spread hatred against Muslims and Pakistan. They keep spreading the communal messages that Indian Muslims are celebrating a Pakistani victory.
It cannot be denied that the game of cricket in the hands of Hindu fundamentalists has always served as a means of subjugating minorities and an attempt at forcing them to prove their nationalism. It has also acted as a means of strengthening stereotype around Muslim minorities and to show how disloyal they are towards India.
Recently following the victory of Pakistan in the ICC Championship, minority hatred was spread through circulation of a series of fake videos on Social Media. While one of the videos of victory celebration was from a video of a Pakistani citizen celebrating victory in Pakistan, another one was many months old and was shot in Vadodara. These were shown as celebrations which took in different parts of the country by Indian Muslims. Altnews.in has identified how the fake rightwing websites such as opindia and facebook pages called Bajrang Dal (Unofficial) , we support Arnab Goswami rightwing twitter account holders Sonam Mahajan and their supporters spread the fake news.
While a popular sport can be a means of creating a bridge between two nations, this is being used as a means of dividing two religions and two nations. It also serves the commercial purposes. An image of a war between India and Pakistan through the game of cricket is the most perfect opportunity for the Advertisers, TV channels, Bookies, Consumer brands to increase their financial bottom-line. It is a quick way to attain monetary returns.
It is not surprising that while Pakistan is wanted by Commercial and Communal elements for their respective agendas – increase monetary returns and widening religious divide, the people from the same country are not wanted in IPL. This is because; the loss of identity of Pakistan (the other and enemy) is lost when they become a part of a regional team.
An artificial enemy always serves both Fascists and Commerce. In the process, the sports lose its spirit.
T Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher. He did his M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University