Not cricket: Religious divisions threaten secular India’s last stronghold India

It is often described as one of India’s biggest homosexuals, a sport – at least on the field – separated from the religious sect that has long divided the country.

But in recent weeks, cricket’s position as one of the last bastions of a secular India has come under attack, as the sentiments of Muslim rulers in India, which are on the rise, have been shattered by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Are growing in India. Ugly cricket scandal.

Wasim Jaffer, one of India’s greatest living cricketers, who has scored more runs than any other batsman and Muslim in the history of Indian domestic cricket, has decided to select a religion-based player for the Uttarakhand state team. He started coaching after his retirement in June 2020. As a player

The allegations were made by Jaffer after he resigned in early February, citing “excessive interference and bias” in the selection of “undeserving players” by the local state administration. He named Mahim Verma, secretary of the Uttarakhand Cricket Association, as one of the key figures who was interfering in the selection of players and thwarting his job as a coach.

In a quote on the front page of the Hindi newspaper Jagran, senior figures of the State Cricket Association backtracked on Jaffer. Uttarakhand team manager Nunit Mishra has been accused of supporting Muslim players for the election, stopping a team chanting slogans mentioning Hindu deities and sowing religious discord. ۔ Jaffar was also accused of bringing in an Islamic cleric, a Maulana.

Supporters of Indian cricket are celebrating their team in the second Test against England in Chennai
Supporters of Indian cricket are celebrating their team in the second Test against England in Chennai. Photographer: Pankaj Nangia / Pankaj Nangia / Sportspeaks for BCCI

“of that [Jaffer’s] Verma told Indian media that there was a lot of interference in the election process. However, he has since denied all allegations that Jaffar broke up the team with religious letters.

Jaffar denied the allegations, calling them “false and baseless.” In a press conference, he said, “The sectarian angle that has been imposed on me is very regrettable” and stressed on the equal status of Hindu and Muslim players in his team.

Jaffer said the team never had a slogan to mention any Hindu deity but in fact they often used Sikh mantras which encouraged them to become something more universal. “I told them, we are not playing as a community, we are playing for Uttarakhand, so our slogan should be for Uttarakhand.”

“If there really was any sectarian bias, I would not have resigned. They fired me,” he added. Jaffer declined to speak to the Guardian, saying “they don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

Such sectarian murmurs have not been seen in cricket for more than a century and the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand has ordered an inquiry.

Among cricket observers and fans, it was feared that it pointed to a dangerous infiltration of widespread targeting of Indian Muslims in the secure secular realm of Indian cricket, where Muslim and Hindu national teams have been at odds since 1911. Playing together

“In the last few years, hatred has become so commonplace that even our beloved sport of cricket has gotten worse,” Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party, said in a Twitter response to the Jaffar incident.

Denial of religious discrimination is deeply rooted. Even during the Bombay Pentagonal Cricket Tournament in India, which lasted from 1890 to 1946, where teams were divided along religious lines – players from Parsi, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and other denominations – defended the tournament.

Most recently, after India’s historic cricket victory against Australia in January, it was the story of a young Muslim member of the team, Muhammad Siraj, who remained on tour despite the death of his rickshaw driver father, who Imagination stood out. India

“This is a sad, tragic event because cricket has been largely safe from India’s sectarian tensions,” said Sharda Ogra, one of India’s most respected cricket writers.

“We have seen this kind of sectarian poison in politics and public forums in India but now it is in cricket,” he said. “Jaffar is our highest run-scoring batsman but because of that, his name has now been dragged into the mud and his Muslim religion has been thrown in his face to settle the score.”

UGRA expressed frustration that neither the biggest name in cricket nor the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the country’s powerful cricket governing body, came out in support of Jaffer. The BCCI president, former cricketer Sorao Ganguly, was once Jaffer’s teammate in the Indian cricket team.

Referring to Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest Hindu and Indian player, Arda added: “It shows us that regardless of a player’s height, because he is a Muslim, he can be a target. No cricket official would dare to make such an accusation.

Dr Prashant Kadambi, a professor of history at the University of Leicester and author of Cricket Country: An Indian Odyssey during the Empire, described the incident as “extraordinary” and said that past religious tensions in cricket have always been a separate issue for fans. Was isolated.

“This has never happened in the politics of domestic cricket and does not involve the religious identity of any cricketer in particular,” Kadambi said. He said that Muslims have always been present in the national team, this multiplicity has been very important for the imagination of secular India.

“If such incidents become a trend, it will be really devastating,” he added. “It will destroy one thing, at least on its face. It seems to have been sealed by such divisive sectarian politics that is happening elsewhere in India.”

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