ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On 'Communal Lines'

Consider this imagined scenario. The Pakistan cricket team is playing against India in one of the major cities. In the packed stadium a large group of Indians – no need to mention who these are in this imagined scenario – with their faces painted in Pakistan colours are waving large Pakistani ags and vociferously supporting Pakistan. One’s mind boggles at the fallout of this imagined scenario. For, not so long ago, even an individual Indian expression of sportive support to Pakistan in any such encounter, especially in a cricket match, led to riots that inescapably took on a Hindu versus Muslim dimension. Muslim leaders then routinely issued pathetically abject statements afrming the community’s loyalty to India and that the Indian Muslims always supported the Indian team. The media too chipped in with ponderous and heavily political correct opinions. Law and order agencies even now go on the alert whenever there is an India-Pakistan sporting encounter.

Consider this all too real scenario that was enacted in eThekwini (formerly Durban, described in one report with no sense of reality, let alone irony, as “the most Indian city on the continent”) on the night of September 20, during the South Africa-India cricket match, part of the recently concluded Twenty20 world championship. The Kingsmead stadium was packed with a predominant presence of South Africans of Indian Ancestry (SAIA) who constitute about 20 per cent of the city’s population. Visuals and reports in the newspapers make it explicit that these sections of South African citizens, fully charged with Indian music and dance, were overwhelmingly supporting India, though the adversary on the sporting eld was their own country. What does the majority African population make of this by no means unusual partisanship in South Africa-India sporting encounters, one wonders. However, true to character, when there is an India-Pakistan sporting encounter in South Africa, the SAIA promptly splits itself on what we would call “communal lines”, though fortunately not virulently.

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