Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh’s objection to the holding of the India-Pakistan cricket match in Dharamsala betrays more a deep parochialism than patriotism. By his own admission, he is “respecting” local sentiment. He has written to the Union home minister, saying the people of the state are opposed to the match as Pakistani terrorists continue to target India. Two of the security personnel killed in the Pathankot attack were from Himachal, as were two of six soldiers killed in Pampore. In addition, the soldier who was beheaded at the Line of Control, and another who was killed in Kargil, belonged to the state. Regrettably, Singh forgets that those who gave up their lives
did so for the entire country, and they belong not just to Himachal but to all of India.
Oddly, Singh has subsequently conveyed to BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur that if the cricketing body could convince associations of ex-servicemen in the state about holding the match in Dharmasala, he too would have no objection. But rather than outsourcing this task to a cricketing body, it is really the CM who should be telling his people that sporting ties with Pakistan may help pave the way for better relations, which will, in turn, ensure that no more men from the state or anywhere else in India have to lay down their lives.
Even before the Pathankot attack, Singh was cool to the idea of a high-profile cricket match in his state, giving rise to suspicion that there may be more to this than meets the patriotic eye. The prime mover behind the match is Thakur, a three-time BJP MP from Hamirpur, who also heads the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, and is an old rival of the CM. The state government has filed three cases against Thakur and the HPCA. What was, perhaps, also weighing on the CM’s mind was state BJP leader Shanta Kumar’s open opposition to the match in a letter to PM Narendra Modi last Saturday.
It was just the other day, in the midst of the “intolerance” debate, that the Congress in Maharashtra, citing public sentiment, offered to host a concert by Ghulam Ali after a programme by the Pakistani ghazal maestro in Mumbai had to be cancelled under pressure from the Shiv Sena. It is either due to failure to articulate a vision of ties with Pakistan, or worse, expedience, that the party has nothing to say when its CM in another state cites the same public sentiment to declare that he may not be able to provide security to the Pakistan cricket team.