Kashmiris have won medals before as well. But why all this parading of achievements in such a grand fashion?
Conflict not only consumes lives, it creates confusion and chaos. It has a deep effect on the psyche of the people and has a huge bearing on the way they perceive people and their actions and events. In a conflict ridden place, every act comes under scrutiny.
One day you are lauded, next lambasted. Everything-howsoever big or small- magnets eye-balls. You are either supported or slammed. There is no escape route. Everything becomes political. Nothing is believed to have happened in isolation.
Something may sound apolitical, but its off-shoots could well have a telling political goal to score. Kashmir is a prototype of all this. Everything here is seen through the prism of aspirations (political) and aspersions (politically motivated). In this part of world music isn’t entertainment but a message. George Orwell’s iconic lines from The Sporting Spirit that ‘sports should never be mixed with politics’ don’t get a following here.
Of late, sports-some of them non-descript-have sprung into action big time. There is a lot of action on playgrounds, but more off it. Every single achievement from any sport has been pumped into with lot of PR, column spaces and photo-shoots. Sports Council has started recruiting past stars as coaches. There is a gold-fest. Every other day J&K pockets a medal or two in different sports. Selfies with the medals winners galore. Somewhere else custodians of the game will get all the praise, but not in Kashmir. There are more questions than answers over this sudden sports spring.
Kashmiris have won medals before as well. But why all this parading of achievements in such a grand fashion? Critics don’t see all this happening without a motive. They feel state is appropriating the success of sportspersons to bring home their agendas.
It is a tricky situation, both for sports and sportspersons. Sportspersons are bound to turn to the state as there are hardly any corporate sponsors. And, state is duty bound to help aspiring sportspersons to shape up their careers in a better way. By the look of things, state government wants eke out own benefits (political) out of it. This is where the problem arises. The sporting spirit gets buried under the avalanche of selfies, photo-shoots, and, most tellingly, unwanted linking of all this to normalcy.
The sudden spring in the world of sports in Kashmir needs to be appreciated by one and all. But a true fan in me wants it not to be diluted by hidden agendas. It just takes that feel of the sport out which would mean the essence of following and watching the game is lost.
All this appropriating puts players under so much of spotlight and their credentials are doubted. Parvez Rasool, J&K star all-rounder, is a genuine match winner who has had a wonderful surge in his cricketing career thus far. He has the numbers and ingredients to rub shoulders with the best and his inclusion into Indian team shouldn’t be surprise to those who have seen him play and followed his career. If one goes by the numbers, he is easily among the top three all-rounders in Indian domestic circuit. With so much going around, even questions have been raised over his selections too with some reasoning that he was fast-tracked into Indian team. It would be unfair, and an insult, to Parvez’s years of toil in small playgrounds of his hometown and the time he devoted to improving his cricketing skills, to suggest that an icon had been manufactured. On back of his cricketing talent and hard work he put in over the years to realize his dream of playing international cricket, it is Parvez’s moment under the sun. But state’s handling of sports has meant murky shadows have been cast even over a genuine achievement.
There is lot to be learnt from Parvez. He hasn’t set world on fire with his statements but let bat and the ball do all the taking. He has confined himself to just being a cricketer not an 'agent of change' which has helped him a great deal.
The current regime in the sports council has gone on an overdrive to bolster facilities and opportunities for the sportspersons: more so in otherwise forgotten genres. It augurs well for the sports future of the state. There is a caveat though. Some reckon sports is being supplied with a certain kind of political currency which could well set up a dangerous precedence and people will start viewing everything as stage-managed. It could well be not a case in reality. But that is what you need to guard against in a conflict zone.
It is a good sign that there is so much activity on the sports fields and aspiring sportspersons should make most of it.
Let's hope sports isn't mixed with politics and players aren't used as a cannon fodder to score political points.
Lets sports just be.
Waheed Mirza is a sports writer. He tweets @mirzawaheedz