THE residents of Srinagar and other parts of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) were out celebrating Pakistan’s iconic win against India to lift ICC Champions Trophy 2017. They burst firecrackers and chanted slogans like “Pakistan Zindabad.” Meanwhile, a cricket fan, who was among the spectators at the Oval with the shirt bearing the words ‘winner takes Kashmir’ was also trolled over social media after Pakistan defeated India by 180 runs in the final. The cricket followers went out to streets instead of showing their gratitude for Pakistan’s win on social media only as one of the jubilant fan was too eager to celebrate Fakhar’s brilliant knock in the final. He expressed his feelings in the following lines, “I did not celebrate Fakhar’s century on Twitter I did it on the streets of Kashmir in front of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, Jeeva Jeeva Pakistan.” A cricket match between India and Pakistan has always stirred passions in Kashmir and it is noted that Srinagar has always been a hotbed of pro-Pakistan sentiments.
People pour out in hundreds on the streets in jubilation whenever Pakistan wins a match against India. So one wonders; why do Kashmiris support Pakistani Cricket Team? The truth of the matter is that Cricket is not just a game for Kashmiris but a way to show rebelliousness and defiance against Indian brutalities. In this regard, the people of Kashmir have always supported Pakistan in cricket, hockey or any other game. For example, during the year 1983, Kashmiri youth waved Pakistani flags and Imran Khan’s posters in an India-West Indies match played in Srinagar. Similarly, in 2008 Santosh Trophy, Srinagar was hosting a mega football event wherein there were participants from all over India. In the final stages of the tournament, Kashmir was playing Punjab. Uproar was created after the referee erred. Pro Pakistani slogans were chanted in front of pro Indian bureaucracy and leadership. Arrests were made and situation was ‘brought under control’.
So when India plays against Pakistan, Kashmir will always support the other side. Why? Listen to people from Kashmir, in the streets who are tear-gassed, beaten up and jailed, one might find the answer. The ignorance among common masses of India should change into an understanding of facts and realities. Like when protesters in India are called as protesters. But in Kashmir, non violent protests branded as ‘riots and suppressed’. There is a deep sense of restlessness against India and everything that symbolizes it in Kashmir. Be it the cricket team or an Indian politician. Pakistani sentiment has its political, cultural, emotional, historical and religious bases. Walk through any wood-carving workshop in the old town of Srinagar; one is bound to find pictures of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Shahid Afridi and other Pakistani national Heros. Go into a field; watch these young kids imitating Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar. Listen to a Kashmir person debate, which always revolve around politics, society and the inconsistency of Pakistani cricket team.
Kashmir is the key for the establishment of peace between India and Pakistan. Only peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue can guarantee peace and harmony between the two arch rivals. However, if Kashmir dispute keeps on lingering; it would not only keep on resulting in human sufferings in IOK but also would be shameful failure of international community especially United States of America as well as the United Nations-harbinger of peace. In other words, the silence of international community is troubling for the innocent Kashmiris.
For these things to change, a common Kashmiri person needs to speak out to the common people of India, given if latter is willing to hear the former’s story. India is the world’s largest democracy, they need to become the torchbearers of democratic values. First, by recognizing Kashmir as a dispute, addressing the wrongs of the history and secondly accepting the Kashmir natives struggle for their human rights. It has been years since Kashmiri residents have not accepted the Indian state or the Indian Cricket team.
Therefore, Pakistan as well as Kashmiris believes that the war is not an option to bring peace in South Asia. That is why; Kashmiris try to reinvigorate their resistance against Indian brutalities through supporting Pakistan and celebrating its victory against India. Nevertheless, it is need of the hour that international community, such as UN, Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and other major stakeholders pressurize India for the promised referendum and ultimate resolution of Kashmir dispute. Only a peaceful Kashmir settlement can ameliorate India-Pakistan relations in future. Last, but hardly least, “Winner has taken Kashmir” (by winning their hearts).
—The writer is a Researcher at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad.