In India and Pakistan, this sport inherited from the British presence is at the heart of new religious tensions
The only Muslim player on the Indian cricket team, Mohammed Shami caused a stir in Gandhi’s country.
On October 24, he hugged the captain of the winning Pakistan team to congratulate him, unleashing a tsunami of anti-Islam talk that engulfed the twitterosphere.
Hindu nationalist deputies from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party accused the sportsman of « Sedition » and all those who dared to celebrate this defeat on the social networks of « Terrorism ». Muslim schoolteacher Nafeesa Attari, who hailed Pakistani victory over her WhatsApp account, was arrested and fired from her post for « Statements detrimental to national integration » according to the Penal Code. In Kashmir, medical students who allegedly supported the Pakistani team have been arrested under an anti-terrorism law.
A colonial heritage, cricket has always been an integral part of the Indian psyche. A recent poll published by the Pew Research Center found that 56% of Indians believe that if you are not a supporter of the national cricket team, you cannot be a good Indian. On the Pakistani side, we are not left out. In 2016, a Pakistani fan of Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli was arrested after hoisting the Indian flag.
All these cricket incidents worry many commentators, according to the BBC, who believe that in the world’s largest democracy, the space for free speech is shrinking drastically as communal tensions increase. . More than seventy years after the partition of the former British Raj, religion is still seen in India and Pakistan as the fundamental criterion of national identity and cultural integration.