Friday, 7 March 2014

Three Jeers For Sedition

This is the springtime of our discontent.

As I have mentioned before on this site, India (while still notionally secular) is morphing into a de facto Hindu theocracy, and fascism is on the rise. Like all breeds of fascism, it rests on two poles – a mythologised national identity on the one hand and a hatred of minorities on the other.

The hated minorities of the moment, of course, are the Muslims.

One of the standard accusations against Muslims is that they are, allegedly, all closet Pakistanis (I have actually heard this stated openly by an educated and apparently highly sophisticated Hindu gentleman: “Scratch a Muslim and you’ll find a Pakistani.”) And since they are all closet Pakistanis, any and all evidence which can be stretched, twisted or invented to support that idea is of course stretched, twisted etc to support it.

And one of these “proofs” of Muslims being Pakistanis is that Muslims, allegedly, cheer for Pakistan in cricket. This is something I’ve been hearing for at least twenty years now. That many Muslims have played cricket for India doesn’t matter. Muslims cheer for Pakistan. Even when they don’t.

To those who don’t know India: why cricket? Well, it’s about the only “sport” India can play well on the international level, and is heavily marketed here. Personally, I believe it’s not a sport at all, but organised criminal activity, but if I were to watch cricket I'd probably support Afghanistan.

This absurdity reached its height a couple of days ago, when Pakistan beat India* in a cricket match in Bangladesh. This match (allegedly; I do not watch cricket matches, just as I do not watch Oscar awards and similar rubbish) went through several swings of fortune until Pakistan won. Does it matter that Pakistan won? Well, to some people, it mattered a great deal.

Among these people were the students of a private university in the town of Meerut, in North India’s Uttar Pradesh state. Among those students were 67 Kashmiri Muslims who were guilty of cheering for Pakistan. (They themselves claim that they were reacting to the other students, who were hooting and taunting them while it looked like India would win the match. I can believe this completely; I have often seen Indian Hindus make it a point of celebrating loudly outside Muslim homes when India won cricket matches against Pakistan; and this was at a time when India was more secular than it is now.)

As a consequence of this grave sin, the Kashmiri students were expelled from the university (apparently at first only for three days), forced out of the hostel by police in full riot gear, and accused of sedition. Sedition, by the way, is punishable with between three years to life under Indian law.

Let that sink in for a moment. Cheering for Pakistan’s cricket team means you’re guilty of sedition against the country.

And this is supposed to be a democracy.

In order to understand the sheer scale of the idiocy of this action, I’ll have to explain something:

Kashmir, as I’m sure the reader of this is aware, is a state in contention between India and Pakistan. Since the late 1980s, an insurgency has been sputtering along in the Indian controlled part of the state. At first this insurgency was largely composed of native Kashmiri fighters, but by the mid nineties the Indian armed forces had largely either exterminated them or forced them to surrender. Since then the fighters in the state have mostly been Pakistani jihadists and mercenaries, with a sprinkling of Afghans and a few others from across the world. But there’s still a fair amount of bitterness among the Kashmiris, which explodes into the open now and then.

Now, as I said, the Kashmiri part of the insurgency was almost completely destroyed twenty years ago, and ever since then the violence levels have been dropping slowly and steadily. The old “revolutionaries” of the insurgency, those of them who are still alive, are ageing and ineffectual.  The new generation, which grew up as the fighting began to abate, could, and should, have been won over by the government with a little inclusiveness and support. The Kashmiris were once staunchly pro-India, as Pakistan discovered to its cost in 1947 and again in 1965. With a little deftness, the new generation could have been made pro-India again.

Instead, what we’ve had is something so perfectly calculated to turn someone like this

into someone like this

that if it was the result of a deliberate plan they couldn’t have done better.

After an intervention by the Chief Minister of Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, the sedition charges have been dismissed, but the students are still expelled and still liable to prosecution for “promoting hatred between communities”. In other words, as far as their careers go, they’re screwed. They’ll never be able to work or study freely outside Kashmir again. Meanwhile, of course, Pakistan has grabbed the golden propaganda opportunity dropped into their laps with both hands and offered the students places in Pakistani colleges.

Of course, the implications of this go far, far beyond the immediate fate of these 67 Kashmiris. It’s proof of the way India is fast becoming a fascist society, where intolerance for any kind of dissent is rising steadily. If the Hindunazis win the next elections, due for April and May, the situation will get exponentially worse.

If cheering at a cricket match is reason enough to accuse someone of treason, where does one stop? There is an international trade fair going on right now in this city, and there are Pakistani stalls along with others. To extend the absurdity to its logical conclusion, if I went and bought something from one of those stalls, I could be held guilty of treason because I am trading with Pakistanis, paying them money which might go to support terrorism. Even talking online to Pakistanis can be made actionable.  

Please do not imagine I am joking about any of this. Things are bad for those of us with common sense, and I am afraid they are going to get a great deal worse. It takes much greater effort to deradicalise a society than it takes to Nazify it, and there is no sign of anyone making the beginnings of that effort.

I don’t know whether we will see things improve again, in our lifetimes at least.

[*There’s a delicious irony in the fact that the Board for the Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), a body whose finances and internal workings are extremely murky, successfully argued in a court of law a few years ago that there’s no such thing as a national cricket team, just a team comprising Indian players who represent the BCCI. So the people turning cricket cheering into a Tebbit loyalty test are asking everyone to cheer a private club team. Eat your hearts out, Manchester United and Boca Juniors, Real Madrid and Arsenal.]  


  1. With a few alterations, this is America. And, as you said, those alterations are not too far-fetched to believe. Replace "Hindu" with "Christian conservative" in your opening paragraph, and you could be writing in the U.S. of A. Although even we haven't stooped to criminalizing cheering for the wrong sports team.

    1. There's a guy, mutual acquaintance of yours and mine (this is Ratiocinator, btw), that I got pretty mad at the other day, but it was CC so I wasn't able to say specifically what all it was that made me mad.

      One of the things was like this. He's conservative, he's Christian (or considers himself one, more on that below), and he really doesn't like Muslims.

      Okay, he didn't actually say "I really don't like Muslims", quote/unquote. What he wrote that I saw was how stupid America was to make deals with "moderate" Muslims, with "moderate" in quotes. And whenever else I've seen somebody talk about "moderate" Muslims, what they meant was that there was no such thing. That they're all TURRISTS! or TURRIST-HELPERS! That you can't let them into the country because they're all barbaric and evil and are going to do horrible things and...damn it, just what happened to the idea of "innocent until proven guilty", anyway?

      Regarding the Christian thing: I'm not a Christian myself, but I grew up in a family of Christians and I picked up a lot of stuff by osmosis, you could say. Just by listening to them and having the kinds of rational debates over the faith I would never be able to have with, say, a Rick Santorum.

      The kind of Christianity my parents and sister believe in stresses forgiveness and peace. And as far as I know, that really was what Jesus wanted people to do: not fight and hurt and kill one another. Turn the other cheek instead. He wasn't a violent guy, I'm pretty sure, except for that one time when he got angry at some money changers and wrecked all their stuff. He didn't tell people to be violent, right?

      And yet...we've got lots of people these days saying that they're Christians and they don't forgive, they hate. And they don't love their enemies, or want to talk things over with those enemies so that maybe everybody can stop being enemies...they want to see those enemies blown up or riddled with bullets.

      Something interesting I read a while back was by Kurt Vonnegut. It was in one of the books that collected his essays and speeches instead of his fiction. I forget which one. But anyway: one of the things he said was that it was probably a mistake for Jesus to have asked people to love their enemies, because that's just too hard for them, basically.

      For example, I vaguely remember Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter talking about somebody on tv once, and Ann was talking about how much she hated the guy. (I forget who it was, but I'm almost 100% sure it was somebody on the other side of the political spectrum whom she vehemently disagreed with and not, say, Osama bin Laden.) Bill, in an uncharacteristic moment of non-assholery, said something like "Well, you're a Christian, you're supposed to try to love your enemies." And Ann responded with something like "Jesus might be able to love him, but I'm human, I'm fallible, so I can't."

      I guess a lot of self-professed Christians think the same way. The idea that Jesus would want them to love this person they hate might cross their mind. But loving the person is just too hard. They can't bring themselves to. So they go "Oh well, I tried, I'm only human, I'm just gonna keep on hating them."

      Maybe if Jesus had said "Do your best not to hate your enemies," or if that had been how his words were translated, there'd be a much smaller percentage of Christians who were so enthusiastic to use violent solutions to their problems.

      Bill, I hope it's not a problem that I'm talking about another site and another country instead of what's going on in India and that it isn't too off-topic. (It still does have to do with the unfair perception that "You just can't trust any of those Muslims", so I thought it'd be okay.)

    2. Hi, Ratiocinator. No, not a problem at all.

      I know the person you mean and I don't go around to his site. I do go on CC every day but only to check the comics. I haven't commented in a while. The ambience doesn't seem to be the same recently.

      Thanks for coming here. by the way. You are more than welcome anytime.

    3. Cool, thanks! And it's good to be here.

      With luck, things will get better instead of worse in India, and soon. Also the States.

  2. This is fairly chilling.

    It goes without saying that we hear nothing of this in the US media, of any stripe. People blindly believe in a war on "terror" without being able to define what terrorism is (well, they do hate our freedoms) and no idea why people want to fight, except maybe the Quran tells them to. And India is where Tikka Massala comes from.

    Thanks for the work you do in writing and keeping me, and others, informed.

    1. Sorry to shatter an illusion, but Tikka Masala isn't an Indian dish. It's British. Ethnic Indians in Britain invented it and exported it to India. Just like Chop Suey and China, in fact.

    2. Have you tried a Balti yet, Bill? Invented in Birmingham! Lol! Good blog BTW.

    3. Have you tried a Balti yet Bill? Invented in Birmingham! Lol! Good blog BTW.

  3. My heart aches for the Indians who are still not allowed to consider this as their home - as long as they are not heterosexual, male or practising Hindu.

  4. as pakmen, we already know the deep seated hatred and narrow mindedness of indians towards pak or any outsider,its probably due to ignorace but we dont care about it much. By the way where did u hear that pak offered college education to these kids?
    and is something still a propaganda when its absolutely true?

  5. Obviously, Pakistan didn't do it out of the goodness of its heart. It's entirely something it is offering for the propaganda value, nothing more.

  6. Bill,
    As Chuck Baudelaire said above, this could be the (not so) old US of A, just change the Hindunazis to zionist xtians and you get much of the southern US of A today.
    I DID see the main story the other day at Media With Conscience web site; I read the headline about the students being expelled and said "no way". Then I read the short article. Unbelievable, yet so very true. Many thanks for your post here with the explanation.
    Very good work my friend. Stay safe Bill, and watch you back, they may start looking for you.

  7. one thing i would like to say bill,in our country the middle-class has been deradicalized,thanks to the policies of musharraf(despite the fact i extremely hate him,but he did a very good thing promoting secularism),if indian middle class is deradicalized i am sure 50% of all the communal problems would be solved.

  8. Bill, Stirring up hatred against Muslims is the way of the world today. When we were in Greece a couple of years ago, we found it breathtaking how much hatred was felt against Pakistani immigrants who, like immigrant labor anywhere, had made a major contribution to Greece's prosperity when times were good.

  9. Bill said>>Obviously, Pakistan didn't do it out of the goodness of its heart. It's entirely something it is offering for the propaganda value, nothing more.

    Please read your own comment and tell me if it is not narrow mindedness..

  10. P.S. was this also propaganda by Pak or just plain good old decency?...


Full comment moderation is enabled on this site, which means that your comment will only be visible after the blog administrator (in other words, yours truly) approves it. The purpose of this is not to censor dissenting viewpoints; in fact, such viewpoints are welcome, though it may lead to challenges to provide sources and/or acerbic replies (I do not tolerate stupidity).

The purpose of this moderation is to eliminate spam, of which this blog attracts an inordinate amount. Spammers, be warned: it takes me less time to delete your garbage than it takes for you to post it.