“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand” — these are the words of a South African legend, Nelson Mandela, while recognising the unique power of sport to heal and bring together a deeply divided South Africa.
It is this sport that has united people and helped them to divert their attention from the never ending miseries that continue to grow in the conflict-ridden region of Kashmir. The scenes of thousands lining up in picturesque stadiums of south Kashmir watching young players battle it out on the fields aren’t a wonder. Millions of people of Kashmir have been locked in their homes for more than a year — earlier due to the clampdown by New Delhi, then to a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Over the years, south Kashmir has been an epicentre of militancy and a hotbed of violence with gunfights taking place almost on a daily basis. The sport of Cricket, considered as the gentleman’s game, has given them temporary relief. With successive lockdowns already adding to the mental agony of people, cricket has come as a panacea to their pain. As the central government seems to be in no mood to budge and has further strengthened the military presence in the Valley, more so in south Kashmir, people seemingly have taken refuge in watching the game that has given them a plethora of emotions in the years gone by.
And the stories of these young boys, playing it rough in picturesque fields across Kashmir — a place that has time and again profoundly expressed its love for this game — speaks of another failed story of youth upliftment. While it remains to be seen for how long the game will help calm down the nerves of the populace, the fact remains the government needs to find alternatives to their miseries.
The editorial originally appeared in our 12-18 October 2020 print edition.