Combating Hate

Cricket Unites, Hate Divides: India’s World Cup Win and Lynching of Salman

Amidst India's T20 World Cup triumph euphoria, a gruesome lynching ignites debate on nationalism and hate. Activists condemn the indifference to rising anti-Muslim violence and the lack of response from political and sports figures

On June 29, the Indian Cricket Team won the T20 World Cup in Barbados after 17 years, marking their second victory in history. Fans and cricket lovers poured onto the streets across the nation to celebrate the long-awaited victory, proving that cricket is an emotion for Indians. Fans carried national flags, rallied, danced, and burst crackers of joy at midnight.

The Men in Blue, who returned to India on July 4, headed to Mumbai for BCCI’s felicitation ceremony at Wankhede Stadium after meeting the Prime Minister. They also held an open-top bus victory parade at Marine Drive, creating a packed situation. Fans in a frenzy spontaneously welcomed the team in large numbers with placards, slogans, and national flags, to which the team responded with gratitude, flaunting the trophy and Tiranga. Several fans suffered suffocation due to the dense crowd.

However, what went missing amidst those noisy celebrations of the World Cup was the mob lynching of a Muslim man in Gujarat.

Celebration and Tragedy

Twenty three-year-old Salman Vohra went to watch a local cricket match on June 22 but never returned home. A Hindutva mob, angered by the performance of Muslim players, lynched him while chanting “Jai Sri Ram.” They mercilessly attacked Vohra with a lethal weapon over a minor dispute concerning a motorcycle, which led to his death.

Ironically, a sport meant to unite individuals became a backdrop for this brutal murder. The bystanders, who should have been appalled, instead cheered—urging the attackers and supporting them with “maaro! Maaro!” (Hit him! Hit him!). Two other Muslim men were also injured in the incident. Vohra, married only a couple of months ago, is survived by a pregnant wife.

Vohra became the 6th victim of mob lynching since June 4, when the results of the 18th Lok Sabha were announced. The murder of Salman Vohra juxtaposes national celebrations, reminding Muslims of their vulnerability amid widespread joy.

Silence on Atrocities

Activist and Delhi University Professor Apoorvanand, in conversation with eNewsroom, condemned the indifference to atrocities inflicted on Muslims in India. He highlighted that lynching no longer seems to concern anyone. Since June 4, there have been at least 20 anti-Muslim incidents, including mob lynchings.

“We didn’t expect the ruling party to speak, but even the LoP (Leader of Opposition) Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav said nothing about it. The violence against Muslims is no longer an issue that is hurting. Additionally, newspapers have not published articles on mob lynching, indicating that these incidents no longer shock the public. People, even those who are sensitive, avoid discussing it because it embarrasses them. They try to evade and ignore the issue,” he said.

People demanded that opposition parties break their silence on atrocities against Muslims, arguing that the INDIA bloc’s parliamentary numbers reflected a vote against hate. Despite speaking for over 1.5 hours, Rahul Gandhi did not address the issue of mob lynchings in Parliament. AIMIM leader Asad Uddin Owaisi targeted secular parties for their silence in his speech, remarking that they only consider Muslim existence when seeking votes.

“Every cricketer should have spoken out against the mob lynching of Salman because it happened during a cricket match. Unfortunately, our cricketers or sportsmen have become too insensitive to speak on this issue. What are they afraid of? This attitude is immoral, showing that they have lost their souls. They are sold to money and power and lack integrity. They have become money-making machines, willing to bow down to anyone powerful. Ideologically, they also support Hindutva,” said Apoorvanand.

Harassment, Punishment, and Hindu Nationalism

A video posted by Bajrang Dal Indore circulated on social media after India’s victory. The footage shows police detaining a Muslim man while others walk alongside raising slogans that are muted in the video. The caption reads, “You are betraying India after eating India’s food. Hinduists were making videos and celebrating India’s victory at Rajwada when a Muslim man used an abusive word, snatched their phone, and tried to run away. The Hinduists caught him, handed him over to the police, sent him to Sarafa police station, and gave him Prasad.”

The Ahmedabad crowd behaved with hostility, raising Islamophobic slogans against the Pakistan Cricket Team at the Narendra Modi Stadium during the Men’s One Day World Cup 2023. Police arrested seven Kashmiri students under anti-terror laws for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans and celebrating the Indian cricket team’s loss to Australia in the same World Cup final.

“Nationalism only awakens fully when Pakistan is involved; otherwise, it remains dormant. Muslims in India feel pressured, especially during cricket matches, to celebrate India’s victories publicly. Their nationalism is questioned if they don’t join the celebrations. This burden is longstanding, leading many Muslims to take to the streets to prove their patriotism,” rued Apoorvanand.

In October 2023, a Madhya Pradesh court released 17 Muslim men and two minors who had been arrested in June 2017 and accused of celebrating Pakistan’s victory in a cricket match. The court found that the case was fabricated after the Hindu complainant and government said the police pushed them to make false statements.

Indian bowler Mohammad Siraj was trolled for posting “Thank you, Allah Almighty,” after Team India’s victory in the World Cup. Similarly, pacer Mohammad Shami faced online abuse after Pakistan’s victory at the T20 World Cup 2021 in Dubai. Shami was labelled a “traitor” by Indian cricket fans disappointed with the loss against Pakistan. The Australian cricket team also faced abuse and threats after defeating Team India in the World Cup 2023 final.

Notably, during the election campaign of the 18th Lok Sabha in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Congress Party intends to give minorities a preference in sports. It means that Congress will decide who stays in the cricket team based on religion.

“Playing cricket is just a commercial job. If an industrialist like Adani secures a contract, should people celebrate in the streets? Why should the entire nation come out to celebrate when cricketers earn money from matches? They are working like anyone else and aren’t doing anything extraordinary for the country. So, why should everyone feel joy about it?” questioned the professor.

Apoorvanand added “Cricket is no longer a sport in India but a way to ignite nationalism. It is commerce—two things run simultaneously to ignite nationalism and commerce, which is precise in cricket matches. It gives a false sense of national unity, making people believe that a trophy represents the entire nation. This sport has played a significant role in desensitizing India and has facilitated jingoism. Both cricket and its players have played a big part in this development.”

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