India’s defeat in Asia Cup did not go down well with the Indian audience, who quickly found a figure for channelizing their ‘pent up’ patriotism and ‘spitefulness of sportsman’. Arshdeep Singh, a young pacer, found himself on the receiving end of the aggression, while the internet was found to be the de facto chosen medium of attack. The reason was a dropped catch at a crucial moment, which later turned out to be costly for team India. Undeterred, he bowled a crucial and worthy last over, but that failed to prove his patriotism and snatched away his identity as an ‘Indian’.
His Wikipedia page was edited by unregistered miscreants to denigrate his public image, and call him a Sikh ‘Khalistani’ secessionist, deliberately acting against the interests of the state of India. Even his name was altered to ‘Major Arshdeep Singh Bajwa’, allegedly by some Pakistani handles. This created a wave of controversies and a web of reactions in the state and non-state institutions across the country, with the Indian government getting expeditiously involved as well, slamming the platform in a vigorous way .
India has always been at the helm of debates, discourses and discussions for being one of the most prolific examples of a functioning democracy. Two contending challenges had to be tackled by post- colonial India and its political elite. The primary one was the prevention of the spectre of secessionism from haunting sovereign India once more. This had to be augmented by the necessary constitutional and electoral measures, to accommodate the composite multiculturalism of India essentially. This later emerged to be the principal founding ethos for the reconstruction of India as a nation-state. The experiment of sustained post-colonial democracy worked out quite successfully, with instances of occasional derailing. Varied complex factors and cases of political expediency have often culminated into full-blown secessionist movements, only to get subsided or repressed.
The secessionist and communal tendencies have remained embedded in the national psyche, most of which have remained undeterred after all these years, even if latent in nature.
Also read: Questioning Arshdeep’s nationalism for dropping a catch shames cricket and Indians as a people
A phenomenon which can corroborate this claim is the recent controversy which had swirled up with respect to the very last creation of the recently assassinated singer Sidhu Moosewala, named ‘SYL’. The song had opened up old, gaping wounds of history pertaining to the ‘water contention’ of the Satluj-Yamuna Waterway Link between Haryana and Punjab, thereby regurgitating the contagion into the nation’s memory again. The remaining numbers of separatist factions have resorted to the ‘irredentist’ line. This concept involves reclaiming territories, be it geopolitical or virtual. To quote Huntington, this truly has been a precedent of a ‘clash of civilizations’. Multiple endeavours of negotiation and repression by the Indian state machinery, all along these years, have not been able to provide a viable and permanent solution to these deep-rooted contentions.
But hereby, it is safe to say that with the shift in the central leadership and the ideological paradigm of India, the institutional focus and sensitivity towards the varying layers of heterogeneity have transformed as well. I would conclude with the observation that, with the NDA emerging at the centre, the emphasis has been more on imposition for accommodative stability, rather than mutual engagement. The lacunae among communities have expanded, identities within individual subjects have split apart and antagonism has turned into agenda. Arshdeep’s recent unfortunate experiences bear a clear brunt of that.
The author is a student at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Views are personal