Was Tendulkar’s Kashmir visit political?

Tendulkar Kashmir

Among the nearly one-and-a-half billion population of the subcontinent, twelve million Kashmiris are included who are not only cricket fans but also sentimental about it. Unfortunately, they have not found a place in national or international cricket except for Pervaz Rasool and Umran Malik.  Political turmoil or lack of opportunities? It needs a proper study.

Pervez Rasool played for IPL and one international, whereas Umran got a chance in international cricket.

Wherever cricket is being played, Kashmiris must remain glued to it, and when a cricketer visits the valley, they set an example of hospitality. As the saying goes, mountainous people are warm-hearted and hospitable, an added quality among Kashmiris. Yet, it has never been reciprocated until now.

You might have observed this during the recent visit of master batsman Sachin Tendulkar to the Valley. Although his private visit, it was a general impression among his Kashmiri fans that he made it a semi-official visit by visiting various government institutions, Line of Control and chosen individuals. The visit seemed more planned.

While the government machinery was kept everywhere to welcome Tendulkar, some Kashmiris interacted with him, even though he was provided tight security. People avoid security surrounding VIPs for many reasons.

On the snow-capped mountains of Gulmarg, Sachin Tendulkar hit a few cricket shots and addressed the world, saying that he was playing in heaven. He would never know this heaven would become hell due to power scarcity and other basic facilities. The media hardly bothers to show that. For normalcy’s sake, only tourists who are too high-profile get media time and attention. The crowd hardly gets mentioned—- the tragedy of our times.

Riyaz Lone, based in Gulmarg, says, ‘I wish he were without security; it would have been a bit more fun to talk to him’. Riyaz himself plays cricket and was once Sachin’s big fan. Currently, he considers Virat Kohli and Shahid Afridi his cricketing role models. ‘Sachin has made his innings. His time is over now. He is history’. He chuckles.

I asked, ‘If Kohli or Afridi come to Valley, what kind of reaction will come?’

After a long silence, he laughed and said, ‘There will be a crowd to see Virat, and he must be respected as a great player, but Lala, Lala Afridi, a sea of people will come to see him, and Maybe the government will have to implement a curfew!’

Staying quiet for a while, he then said that ‘if such a day ever comes that Pakistan’s players are allowed to go to Kashmir, hundreds of lives may be lost due to the stampede. We have a million differences with Pakistan, but its players live in our hearts. Imran Khan, Lala Afridi, and Babar Azam are our all-time heroes.’ He was laughing uncontrollably.

It is worth noting that some Kashmiris spend a handsome amount to watch Pakistani cricketers abroad, but a large number of them are fans of Indian players and use all means to connect with them. This has nothing to do with politics.

During his Kashmir tour, Sachin wrote his many impressions on the microblogging site X (Twitter) several times, praising the majestic beauty of Kashmir, its music and nature.

Ahmar, a student of Bisco School Srinagar, was very upset. He couldn’t get a chance to see Sachin, who was still his role model in cricket. In one of the interviews, he said, ‘I had a great desire to meet Tendulkar, but he did not meet common people like us. What difference does picking up a bat in the middle of the road make? He should have played a match with a team in Kashmir, which would have inspired players like me’.

However, Sachin Tendulkar met Para Cricket Team Captain Amir Hussain Lone in Srinagar and spent time with him, encouraging him. Apart from this, Sachin also met the Indian troops in the Uri sector of the Line of Control.

Kashmir has a unique status for making cricket bats. Still, a few days ago, the bat industry association accused Sony Pictures Network and Trumbo Sports Pvt of declaring one business house as its sole bat maker, thus creating severe market issues for hundreds of other traders.

The bat industry community also demanded that hundreds of crores of damages be paid while taking legal action against Sony.

Did Sachin know about the controversy?  Nobody knows about it, but he stopped at a bat-making shop on the national highway and tried to find out the problems the bat industry of JK is currently facing. He wrote that the first bat he got from my sister came from Kashmir only. That could boost the sector, but it needed more push.

However, the industry wanted more attention from Sachin Tendulkar. Ghulam Rasool, a businessman who makes cricket bats in Anantnag, says, “We had hoped that Sachin Tendulkar would meet the businessmen involved in this industry and highlight their problems, but it was his private visit that had the Line of Control in his itinerary. Perhaps It was among the priorities to display the Akhand Bharat map in front of the Aman Setu Bridge.

Many youths are participating in cricket and other sports in Jammu and Kashmir; some have won honours in national and international competitions, but the youth demand that Kashmir have its own ‘JKPL’ on the lines of IPL.  It would provide a chance for cricketers to show their performance.

The impression could have been better if Sachin would have met ordinary people. Most felt that though the entire Kashmir was ready to host Sachin Tendulkar, he spent most of his time as a politician. That was unexpected for a cricketer.

According to a local journalist who doesn’t want his name to be mentioned, ‘millions of fans would have gathered around him if he had come only as a cricketer. Still, when a visit to the military cantonment and Aman Setu was prioritised in the family holiday, the majority considered it a political visit. I didn’t feel any difference from the visits of politicians who only came to express their intentions to impose Hindutva policy; Sachin’s visit to certain chosen places strengthened that message. And, when the Prime Minister of India expressed his opinion on Sachin’s visit, such impressions were proved right. It was not a simple family holiday; it was more than that. 

Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor is associated with Independent Urdu and author of “Lost in Terror”

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