How India’s defeat at Pakistani hands lets our social media ‘liberals’ take off their masks

It is shameful that these ‘liberals’ wantonly celebrate a defeat, are more cruel to the Indian team than the ‘illiterate’ fans they scoff at daily, and make it out to be a defeat for India as a nation

India’s Captain Virat Kohli congratulates Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan, right, and Babar Azam after Pakistan won the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan in Dubai. AP

The responses to India’s loss to Pakistan in the T20 World Cup have been truly extraordinary. Veils seem to have suddenly dropped and all our fissures exposed to the world. To put it simply, we Indians have been making fools of ourselves in the full glare of the world.

India was thoroughly outplayed in the match. It was a class act by Pakistan and yes, a humiliating defeat for India. But some of the reactions were staggering.

There was rage and derision aimed at the Indian team, its captain and coach, the team selection, strategy and so on. This is on expected lines and I don’t think any of the Indian cricketers would have been surprised. Indian fans are passionate and passion cuts both ways.

This is how it is, and it doesn’t matter whether it is fair or unfair.

And an India-Pakistan match rouses a very high degree of passion. This too is natural. People who, the day before an India-Pakistan match, post stuff like “Whatever the result, let cricket be the winner” on social media are worse than sanctimonious. They are plain tiresome.

No one has ever heard any Englishman or Australian say these things before an Ashes series, quite simply because they would be laughed out of the room. And England has not had to fight four wars with Australia, nor has it suffered vile terrorist attacks planned and financed by Australia, or continuous decades-long low-intensity conflict. So let’s accept facts and keep our holier-than-thou statements to ourselves.

The average Indian cricket fan pins sky-high hope on the cricket team and billions of dollars of corporate money goad him on. But when the criticism that comes from disappointment defies norms of civility and reason, it becomes worrisome. For instance, singling out Mohammad Shami after the match and questioning his commitment to the cause because he is a Muslim is absolutely contemptible. As also the wild outrage that seems to imply that the world has ended because India lost a match to Pakistan.

But what has been really weird is how some have taken the Indian cricket team’s defeat as Narendra Modi’s defeat and have positively gloried in it. Apparently India losing a game proves all the worst suspicions about Modi.

Soon after Pakistan’s 10-wicket victory, Radhika Khera, national media coordinator of the Congress, posted a tweet in Hindi, which roughly translates to “What, Bhakts? How’s the taste? You have managed to humiliate yourselves?” This was retweeted more than 5,500 times and got more than 4,000 likes.

She has since claimed that the tweet had nothing to do with cricket, but has not revealed what exactly she was referring to, late at night, when almost the only topic of discussion on all Indian media was the defeat.

For 24 hours before the match, Indian social media was replete with posts that were variations of “It’s just a game. Don’t mix politics with sports.”

Yet, minutes after the match ended, some of these same people were posting photos of Virat Kohli congratulating Pakistan captain Babar Azam with the comment “We won.” Who are these “we”? And is this the first international cricket match you have ever watched? It’s customary in cricket for the fielding team captain to congratulate the batsmen once the winning runs are scored.

Azam’s jersey number is 56. So joking memes were shared that this was a “Pakistani conspiracy” to shame Modi’s “56-inch chest”. I am sure Lashkar-e-Taiba found it hilarious.

Conversely, if India had won the match, would these people have condemned the victory as one for “Hindu communalism”?

All sorts of totally unrelated issues were brought in. One gentleman who has clearly laboured hard over his Facebook post wrote: “Captain Kohli acted like a worried nail-biting husband unable to spot the full moon on a cloudy Karva Chauth night. Given his top order batters who ‘fasted’ against fast bowling by not scoring many runs.”

Then, “bad pun! Blame it on the frustration of having (been) left with so many crackers that went ‘unbursted’!”

Many may find the utterly gratuitous and seemingly-derisory reference to the north Indian Hindu festival of Karva Chauth offensive. And what on earth does the ban on crackers during Diwali have to do with a cricket match? And let me repeat, these are the people who were posting “It’s just a game.”

The elation was heightened by the fact that Akshay Kumar, who is seen as a Modi supporter, was in the stadium. “I spotted ‘Khiladi’ Kumar in the gallery before the start of today’s T20 match,” wrote one fool. “The least the Indian coach could have done to win today was to get him drafted in the playing eleven. He would have known the drill.” This is a completely ad hominem attack (Does Akshay Kumar not have the right to watch an India match?) and also incredibly contemptuous of the Indian players.

The rants ranged from crude sneering at “bhakts” because India lost, to vacuous intellectualisation to establish some sort of “liberal” credentials.

Where is the cricket in all of this?

The one constant claim for the social media “liberals” has been that they are intellectually superior to the “IT cell trolls”. But they have just revealed how petty and vicious they are. It is shameful that they wantonly celebrate a defeat, are more cruel to the Indian team than the “illiterate” fans they scoff at daily, and make it out to be a defeat for India as a nation.

Indians who celebrate their team’s sports defeat as some sort of Waterloo for a democratically elected government must have a really strange and self-hating “idea of India”.

What they have performed is a tasteless comedy act where the world laughs at you, not with you.

The writer is a former editor of ‘Financial Express’, and founder-editor of ‘Open’ and ‘Swarajya’ magazines. Views expressed are personal.

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