Do some lives matter more than others?
by Prashant Sharma from Australia, Published by NRI Herald 01 November 2021
After 29 years India’s winning streak against Pakistan in the world Cup Cricket tournaments came to a disastrous end on 25th October 2021, with a shocking 10 wickets defeat. Far more than being one of the most humiliating defeat for the team, what caught more eyeballs was the Men in Blue’s symbolism to “take the knee” for Black Lives Matter. Surprisingly the gesture didn’t go well with people on either side of the political spectrum. Leftists termed it “too little too late” while Right wing considered it to be selective activism with absolute oblivion to issues of persecution of Indic faiths in the subcontinent about which none of the cricketers have even uttered a word.
What does the gesture mean?
Four years ago, Colin Kaepernick (an American civil rights activist and former football quarterback. He played six seasons for the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football League.) began sending a message about police brutality and social injustice by refusing to stand for the national anthem before NFL games. In May 2020, the message took the form of protests that raged across the USA & some parts of Europe as well as Australasia over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
What has Indian Cricket team got to do with BML?
Indian captain Virat Kohli on Monday revealed that the team management asked the players to take a knee before their ICC T20 World Cup 2021 opener on Sunday to show their support in the fight against racism. “That was communicated to us by the management. The Pakistan team agreed to pay their tribute towards the same cause, and then we accepted our side of things, as well. Yeah, that’s how it was decided,” Kohli said explaining the gesture after the match on Sunday night.
The Irony: #Hindu Lives do not matter.
It is ironic that Virat Kohli and Co were doing this symbolism along with Pakistani team (which rather than taking the knee, just put their hand on the heart) where the treatment meted out to the minorities has shocked the whole world. Pakistan’s ever shrinking Hindu minority has faced institutional & systematic prejudice and discrimination to the extent that many are routinely abducted, converted or killed.
It’s the same story for the rest of the subcontinent, Hindu population in Afghanistan has dropped from over 250000 in 1970 to almost 50 people in 2020 those too living in fear day & night. Pakistan which started with over 14% Hindus has dropped to just 2.14% in 2017 and Bangladesh, considered the most liberal of the lot has seen the numbers declining from 13.5% in 1971 to about 8% in 2020.
For Bangladesh situation is so grave that Dr Abul Barkat, a Dhaka university professor made the bold statement that “There will be no Hindus left in the country three decades from now” in 2016. 5 years later it seems the prophecy may come true sooner than later. Barkat said in his book ‘Political economy of reforming agriculture-land-water bodies in Bangladesh’ From 1964 to 2013, around 11.3 million Hindus left Bangladesh due to religious persecution and discrimination which means on an average 632 Hindus left the country each day and 230,612 annually. All this after Indian (mostly Hindu & Sikh) soldiers put their life on line to get Bangladesh its freedom from an oppressive regime in West Pakistan.
The big question:
Why would Indian cricketers, rather than choosing to speak against the merciless killing of minorities in Kashmir or raise awareness against atrocities unleashed on Bangladeshi Hindus within this month decided to pick an old topic that was distant and thus “safe”?
Out of three prominent recent incidents of broad daylight killings of a School Principal Supinder Kour (just 46 years of age), a school teacher Deepak Chand (a 38 years old Kashmiri Hindu who had migrated back to the Valley from Jammu) and a Pharmacist Makhan Lal Bindroo (70 years old and one of the very few Kashmiri Hindus who never left amidst years of terrorism and religious extremism) being shot dead in broad daylight I am sure none of the cricketers can recall the name of even one of them let alone hundreds that have died in Bangladesh. Will they take the knee for them? Do their lives not matter? Is this not an issue that actually needs awareness in India and across the world? Especially when they play against these countries? Are they not ‘woke’ for them?
To jump on the bandwagon to support a cause that they have no firsthand experience about and later trying to shrug of the responsibility by openly claiming that this was conveyed to them by the team management talks volumes about the cricketer’s commitment to the cause, if any.
I wish they had taken a leaf out of Former Bangladesh cricketer and one of the more successful captains in the country's cricketing history, Mashrafe Mortaza, who condemned the attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh with his Facebook post captioned.
"I saw two defeats yesterday, one for the Bangladesh cricket team which hurt me, and another for the whole of Bangladesh which has broken my heart,"
The BCCI and the Indian cricket team must remember—now they will be expected to demonstrate their support to many more issues. Ones that actually matter to Indians and people are watching.