Last week, Trilokpuri, a communally sensitive locality in East Delhi, witnessed a clash of another kind — a cricket match organised by the Delhi Police to bridge the gap between its Hindu and Muslim communities. Shahrukh Khan, 21, who won ‘Man of the Match’ for his 56 runs and five wickets, is doing his graduation through distance learning and also works part-time for an e-commerce company.
How long have you been playing cricket?
Since I was a child. I joined a club and even had a coach but quit within a month because they were teaching me old techniques… I never practise before any match because we keep playing in our locality. Sometimes we also pool in money and book a ground to play matches.
Did your locality witness any violence during the 2014 riots, and how has it affected ties between the two communities?
I live in Block 35 in Trilokpuri and it’s considered relatively peaceful — both Hindus and Muslims live here. But yes, families lived in fear during the riots. I was not in Trilokpuri when tension spread and my family told me to stay away till things got better. Also, nobody played any cricket for at least two weeks.
Will initiatives such as these – the cricket match — help in improving ties between the two communities?
Of course they do. When we play together as part of a team, there is only friendship, no rivalry. After Monday’s match, many youths from both the communities discussed the game with us. I have promised to take them along the next time such a match is organised.
What is the biggest issue facing the youth in your area?
Unemployment and education. Parents send their children to school but have no time to be with them, guide them. Most families are very poor. Children here have a lot of talent; they just need an opportunity. Also, these frequent riots have given Trilokpuri a bad name. People have had trouble getting jobs when they say they are from Trilokpuri.
5Apart from such initiatives, what else can the government do to improve ties between the two communities?
A team in every block. It needn’t be a cricket team… children here also play football, badminton. And yes, more playgrounds. See, everybody wants peace. They indulge in wrongdoings and get into fights only when they have nothing else to do.