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Cricket is not this important!
December 20, 2003
A few weeks ago, I read something that made my stomach churn. The Hindustan Times was reporting:
India's tour of Pakistan could be worth $20 million
All it will take to wipe out the Pakistani Cricket Board's huge losses is one visit from the Indian team, now scheduled early next year. India's tour in February-March is expected to rake in huge financial gains for the Pakistan Cricket Board, with one expert putting the figure at around $20 million.
I am one of the biggest cricket fans you'll ever meet, but something about this deal is just not right!!!
Why the stomach churn?
Well, let me tell you the story of Beli Ram of Jammu, as the Tribune reported it:
'Mrs Shyama Devi, wife of Mr Beli Ram, an official of the MES, succumbed to the bullet wounds in the Medical College Hospital here today. His 11-year-old daughter Nancy and 12-year-old son Aman, were shot dead by the terrorist yesterday.' At http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20031030/main3.htm
Shooting down an 11-year-old girl!! Sadly, such happenings are now so common in India, that we even are ready to play cricket with the perpetrators. But, before we do so -- let us acknowledge what we're choosing to ignore:
Little 9-year-old Nazia had her head bashed in because she did not know where her father was. She died that August night in Khabala -- unsung and unremembered. Young Rehana Hamid of Arampora had her hopes and life cut short by a grenade as she walked to college to take her political science exam. Then there were the Pakistanis who packed in bombs into a school-bus in Bandipora, grievously injuring five schoolgirls. Packing bombs into a school bus! Karam Veer, 14, and Harpreet, 13, who were brutally killed at Vaishnodevi just as they stopped to get a bite to eat. Dozens of other children were injured that day and, of course, the terrorists proudly took ownership for this deed.
- Saddam, 2, who was shot to death along with his family, as a suspected informer. A 2-year-old informer!!
The list could go on and on -- since this happens almost every day. In many cases, the children receive yet another kind of sentence -- they lose their childhood, their parents and their futures. Savita Yadav, 15, orphaned on August 25, is trying to figure out how to raise her two younger siblings and who knows where Poornima, the little orphaned Bihari girl profiled in rediff, is today.
But simply put, every week, Indian parents have to scrape the bodies of their children off the streets or receive bullet-riddled bodies in body-bags, thanks to the Pakistanis -- and we're enthusiastic about seeing Tendulkar square up to Shoaib.
Remember, all this killing and debauchery does not come for free -- the Pakistani terrorists get good money for this. And, the money has to come from somewhere. Not surprisingly, The New York Times amongst others have consistently reported on the open fund-raising for jihad-e-Kashmir that goes on unabated in Pakistani mosques. While our Rotarians collect money to save Pakistani lives, Pakistanis proudly announce their accomplishments in raising resources for the terror in Kashmir.
No, no -- this is not the work of some lunatic fringe in Pakistan. All strata of Pakistani society are today underwriting this mayhem. As the Daily Times of Lahore reports on the touring 'jihad conferences' being held by the Jaish-e-Mohammad supremo:
LAHORE: Tehrik Khuddamul Islam Ameer Maulana Masood Azhar on Friday was given millions of rupees by businessmen from Lahore's posh and industrial areas for Kashmiri mujahideen. Maulana Azhar said he would personally deliver the donations to the mujahideen. "He took four sacks full of rupees with him," a TKI source told Daily Times. He met with businessmen after the Friday prayers and asked them to give zakat to mujahideen. He also visited the industrial areas of Lahore on Sheikhupura Road and addressed people at an iftar dinner at a factory. Mr Azhar later left for Gujranwala.
So, it would seem that some businessmen, who would benefit from our television revenues and access to our markets through selling their wares during the matches, may be willing to pay handsomely for killing our children. Rest assured that by advertising and gaining access to Indian customers, some of these same traders will gain many times more than the $20 million the PCB will earn. No prizes for guessing which 'charities' these traders will bequeath sacks of money to. And, we are stupid enough to believe we can buy the goodwill of the financiers and cheerleaders of the terrorist clans.
Doesn't make sense to me, any which way you look at it. In the past, the Samjhauta Express, life-saving medical treatment for dozens of Pakistani children, numerous peace-offers -- nothing, absolutely nothing, has tempered Pakistani society's innate bloodlust. So, why do we expect magic to happen this time?
But, but, but -- say the die-hard peaceniks -- this has nothing to do with cricket! Not quite.
Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi's terrorist first cousin, a local commander for the Harkat-ul Ansar, was killed by the BSF in an encounter in Kashmir recently. Please note -- first cousin!! So, while the BCCI, Indian advertisers and the paying Indian public will bail out the now bankrupt Pakistan Cricket Board, close relatives of Pakistani cricketers are busily killing Indians. Also, let us not forget that officials of the very same army, that run the Pakistan Cricket Board, also run the organizations that regularly issue threats to the lives of our star cricketers -- nice people we are dealing with, aren't we?
Such direct family and personal connections to terrorists are not at all uncommon in Pakistan -- a country where doctors, nuclear scientists, cricketers, PhDs from MIT and government officials regularly consort with terrorists.
So, if you and I refill the coffers of Pakistani cricket and with our hard-earned money, there's a very good chance some of it will find its way back to India -- as bullets into the heads of Indians!! Is this the right way to invest our money? Do we really want to finance the people who're anxious to bash in the heads of our children?
Sure some of you want to see us treat Pakistani children -- great go for it!! Some want to make sure that relatives can visit each other across the border -- nothing wrong with that! That's all very Indian and very humane. But do we really have to subsidize the war on our children, our neighbors and our extended families?
Sure, cricket is important to us Indians -- but not this important!!
I'm sure Beli Ram would agree.
Arindam Banerji can be reached at email@example.com