Soon after the customary shedding of crocodile tears and expressing faux rage, an art in which we excel, over the ghastly bloodletting in Mumbai four years ago on November 11, our ‘cricket-loving nation’ will get ready to warmly welcome Pakistanis, both cricketers and spectators, for the bilateral series scheduled by BCCI in December. The commentariat will go berserk, heaping praise on the ‘bold decision’ to invite the Pakistanis home and pouring scorn on naysayers who are not easily persuaded by the bunk that the onus is on India to improve relations with Pakistan by allaying fears in Islamabad and building confidence with Rawalpindi.
The plaintive voices of those who lost their loved and dear ones in the attacks on high profile targets in Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists trained and armed by the ISI and affiliated to the Lashkar-e-Taiba will be drowned in the din raised by screaming spectators, pontificating commentators and smirking politicians. Nor will anybody bother to remember that there are survivors of that dastardly assault who still nurse deep wounds, victims who have been scarred for the rest of their lives. For instance, the widow and orphans of Tukaram Omble, or the families of those who were felled with stunning cruelty by Qasab and his terror buddies.
It’s truly a shame. If the Government is guilty of ‘nudging’ the BCCI to restore ‘cricketing ties with Pakistan’, the BCCI is guilty of being greedy. If the BCCI is incapable of thinking beyond gate money and sponsorship revenue to fill its overflowing coffers, the people of India are guilty of welcoming such a flawed decision for nothing more than a few days of tamasha. Crowds at a Roman circus had a greater sense of self-esteem than those who will pack the cricket stadia this December.
In a sense, with this decision we have come full circle and are exactly where we were before the 26/11 butchery in Mumbai, pretending all is fine between Pakistan and India, that there exists nothing but boundless goodwill and undiluted affection for India across the Radcliffe Line, and that minor aberrations should not be allowed to stand in the way of good neighbourliness. It’s an amazing illness that blinds us to reality, makes us forget that time and again the hand of friendship has been bitten when we least expected it, a strange sickness that wipes out terrible — and terrifying memories — of men, women and children killed by Pakistani terrorists in cold blood on Indian soil with the connivance of the Pakistani state.
There shall be no talks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had pledged after 26/11, till Pakistan brings the guilty men to justice. That has proved to be no more than bluff and bluster. Not only did he slyly re-initiate the composite dialogue process but also inflicted enormous damage to India’s stated position. Recall his abject capitulation at Sharm el-Sheikh, recall also how he has gradually chipped away at India’s resolve to ensure security for its citizens.
However, it would be unfair to blame him alone. In that enterprise he has received more than sufficient support from Indians who hold the lives of their fellow citizens in as much contempt as a morally bankrupt and politically decrepit Government does. Or else there would have been uproarious protests over inviting the enemy home.
Like relatives, we don’t get to choose our neighbours. But just as we keep rotten relatives at an arm’s distance and do not fraternise with them, so too should we treat neighbours who are steeped in treachery and harbour nothing but deep-seated hatred towards us. This simple dictum is wasted on a Prime Minister who is determined to go down in history as the person who forged peace with Pakistan: A peace that can at best be a farce; a peace that, insiders privy to what he is willing to offer Pakistan say, is tantamount to betraying the national interest.
If that’s distressing, it’s equally disturbing how easily the masses are misled by carefully choreographed shows of bonhomie. This is not the first time that the Government of India is resorting to ‘cricket diplomacy’ to pander to the Government of Pakistan, such as it is; nor is this the first time that a grand gesture of reconciliation is being made. The Lahore bus yatra resulted in the Kargil war. Each such gesture of friendship has yielded nothing but belligerence and worse - from the state of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan.
Had the people of Pakistan genuinely wanted peace with India, the state of Pakistan would not have dared plot and execute repeated terrorist attacks on India. The so-called ‘liberals’, a rapidly vanishing tribe in Pakistan, are marginally more sophisticated than the ‘radicals’ whose numbers continue to increase. Deep within, the attitude is the same: The former manipulate the latter, ever so craftily, to articulate what they would rather not say lest it tarnish their ‘liberal’ image.
How else can one explain the ease with which those responsible for the Mumbai carnage have escaped punishment, the scorn with which evidence has been spurned, the disdain with which sentiments of victims have been treated and the derision with which outrage has been met? It could, of course, be argued that a nation that allows the momentary excitement of cricket to ride roughshod over its pride and dignity deserves no better.
— The writer is a journalist, political analyst & activist