Don’t cheer for Pakistan’s cricket team if you are in India, you may be suspended or stabbed!

In a bizarre demonstration of overbearing nationalism, a university in Uttar Pradesh suspended 67 Kashmiri students for cheering for the Pakistani cricket team. This may be a clinical sign that the sore-loser syndrome has reached its terminal stage.

I don’t watch cricket. All I really know about the sport is that Pakistan won the match because Shakil Afridi, incidentally the same guy who found Osama, scored a last-minute goal (also called a ‘touchdown’).

I do know, though, that every India-Pakistan cricket match sends the neighbouring nations into a state of frenzy, which is quite natural. It doesn’t matter. As long as their skirmishes and battles are confined to the cricket stadium, I have no qualms with their passion.

Occasionally, that fervour spills out of the stadium into the real world, causing significant turbulence in our social and political lives. Swami Vivekanand Subharti University (SVSU) has policies as complicated and arcane as its name would suggest. The institution indefinitely suspended all Kashmiri students residing in Madan Dhingra hostel for applauding Pakistan’s victory in the cricket match.

The administration received complaints regarding some Kashmiri students yelling pro-Pakistani slogans and clapping whenever the Pakistani team scored. The Kashmiri students complained of angry Indian team supporters vandalising their rooms and damaging their property in retaliation. Only one of these complaints was dealt with seriously.

It’s like the time when New York’s Columbia University expelled a Chicago student for cheering the Chicago Bulls instead of New York Knicks during a basketball… oh, of course I’m kidding. There is no precedent, at least to my knowledge. A university cannot mandate which sports team a student may or may not support. The subcontinent, in this regard, is a universe of its own.

A three-tier inquiry at SVSU was appalled when the Kashmiri students refused to come forward and apologise for their behaviour. When they refused to give names of the students responsible for causing the uproar, all 67 Kashmiri students of the hostel were sent back to the valley.

The crime was not hooliganism; that, if any, is being attributed to the local students who were outraged by the Kashmiris’ support for the ‘enemy’ team. The most offensive part of the incident is the institution’s firm belief in its own imaginary magnanimity, that they sent these students back to the valley to secure them from the possible clashes. The attitude, it seems, is being shared by many parents of students at the university as well.

These are the same kind of wise policy-makers who would suspend a woman from work at the office in order to ‘protect her from harassment’. It does not occur to the administration to reprimand and punish the local students who are not evolved enough to tolerate a student’s support for an opposing team. The answer, instead, is to punish the victim and send him home.

Regrettably, this is not even the worst incident in the aftermath of the cricket match. In the Baramulla region of occupied Kashmir, a youth was stabbed to death by Indian forces for celebrating Pakistan’s victory. While this aggression will surely be bilaterally decried, this will not likely be the wake-up call to us on what jingoism could lead us to, just as thousands of tragedies before this weren’t.

I’ve learned from past experiences that whenever I say something marginally critical of anything Indian, I must also say something equally and irrelevantly critical of Pakistan so not to hurt an Indian friend’s pride.

So I would add, to burst my fellow Pakistanis’ bubble, that if somebody openly applauded the Indian team in a Pakistani university, he too would be treated rather poorly. Would he get suspended? Depending on the university, quite possibly, though that hasn’t happened yet as far as I’m aware. If it does happen, I would condemn that wholeheartedly as well.

SVSU’s immaturity deserves no apologists. A university’s vice-chancellor should not be concerned with which sports team I cheer for or which Game of Thrones character I root for. If anybody is to be punished, it should be the one not capable of tolerating diversity of thought at the campus.

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