Vantage point

Friday, February 28, 2003


Tomorrow India plays Pakistan in a do-or-die encounter at Supersport Park, Centurion. It is actually just a do-or-die encounter for Pakistan, with India almost sure of a Super Six berth. But an India-Pakistan match, the stakes be big or small is a do-or-die encounter.

What is it with us? Almost 90% of the cricket fans I know are of the opinion - "Does not matter if we reach the semis or win the cup, what matters is that we beat Pakistan." Replace Pakistan with India in this statement and you get what 90% of the fans in pakistan feel.

Today I read a news release by AFP which talked about the sentiment in Pakistan. The fans there, already frustrated with the team's continuous bad performance are in a state of frenzy. The team must win or be prepared for the worst, some fans say. A man, surprisingly, said that it is the duty of the Pakistan team, as true Muslims, to beat the "infidels". I blame Imran Khan for this excessive linkage between cricket and religion. He is the one who had said, "We think of every match against India as jihad, and that is why we believe Allah gives us extra willpower when we play them." I do hope for the sake of both countries that such ultra-spiteful views are held only by a minority in Pakistan.

Then there are those who have been gobbling up propaganda and believing it. A man in Islamabad said,

"I am sure Pakistan will beat India. But I am worried about the Muslims in India, because when that happens, Hindus will kill them in large number in fury."

I don't know whether to laugh at the ludicrousness of this staement, or feel offended. This statement is a sad commentary about how much both countries mistrust and misjudge each other. We have grown up believing that the other country is full of devil incarnates, a 'hell on earth' if you will. Sadly, most of us will not be shaken out of this rabid stupour. We will take these prejudices to the grave.

Each year it gets worse, with both countries blaming each other. Even the "talks" that are held once every few years are of a very narrow scope. The major issue is Kashmir, and then something related to defence or trade. But the talks never figure the more important issues, of how to heal the five decade old scars on both sides. How to start on a grassroot level in both countries to uproot this hatred for each other.

Until that happens, no talks will be useful. Even if the Kashmir issue is miraculously solved, the hatred will linger.

Are we condemned to live next to each other locked in a constant contest of "Who hates more?" until the day when Jesus and Kalki come (probably sharing a white horse) to put us out of our misery, and to tell us that each and every one of us 1.2 billion is unworthy of being called a good human being?