By Ashis Biswas
In dramatic contrast to the frenzied anti-India celebrations in Bangladesh following India’s loss to Australia in the one-day cricket final at Ahmedabad on November 19,, people in Pakistan have reacted far more soberly: in the lively Pakistani social media , there have been some expressions of sympathy for India’s hard loss, unlike the unconcealed glee among Bangladeshi netizens, mocking Delhi .
For observers disposed to regard Bangladesh politically as far friendlier to India than Pakistan, such different mass reactions to an international sporting event in the sub- continent come as a puzzle.
It was India that had helped Bangladesh materially and officially gain its independence from a genocidal ruling regime in Pakistan during 1970-71, risking its relationship with the West. Among all its immediate neighbours, the bulk of Indian investments and official assistance on various heads has gone to Bangladesh, helping its post 1971 economic growth. Therefore why this unpopularity?
Analysts of Bangladeshi politics have occasionally warned GOI and different parties ruling in Delhi, never to assume that Islamist fundamentalists and pro-Pakistan elements /supporters have been marginalized during the tenure of the Awami League (AL). Nothing can be further from the truth, they say. Going by the tone and tenor of some of the recent messages trolling India , its political leaders and cultural values in the Bangladeshi social media, it is hard to counter such assertions as of now.
For instance in Dhaka University campus on the night of November 19 , ecstatic apparently middle class youths were shown on TV screens, saying India’s defeat had come “as a fresh Id celebration “ ! Among other views expressed, the most common was,’ More than Australia’s win, it was India’s loss that had brought such joy!’
In cricket, India had adopted every trick on the book to defeat Bangladesh, some people alleged. These included ball tampering, preparing rank turning pitches to suit spin bowlers and even pressuring umpires to rule in favour of India. It was great to see how Australia showed India its proper place. The fact that India’s’ humiliation ‘had occurred before the eyes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was added cause for celebration!
For the record, Bangladesh took the eighth position among nine contesting countries, winning only one of its matches! It had been accepted as a full member of the ICC, the international body regulating the sport worldwide, only in 1996, on the personal initiative taken by then ICC President the late Jagmohan Dalmia.
The anti-India antagonism has attracted the attention of a section of Bangladeshi media as well. A major English daily has reprinted an earlier article, explaining why Bangladeshis were upset with their bigger neighbour. The familiar list of their grievances included, the lack of accord on the Teesta river water sharing, alleged ‘killings’ on Bangladesh-India border by Indian troops, the alleged anti-Muslim bias in India CAA citizenship law, and generally aggressive Hindu policies of the BJP Government.
Writer Tasleema Nasrin who cannot return to Bangladesh, her motherland, owing to death threats from Islamic fundamentalists, expressed her surprise over Bangladeshi elation over an Indian sporting setback. Bangladesh was dependant on India to main its healthcare system, participated in India’s entertainment industry, not to mention its securing essential supplies of beef, onions and clothing from its bigger neighbour.
As stated before, Pakistanis, not exactly sorry about India’s defeat, were far more circumspect in expressing their views. Typical social media jibes ranged from ‘Kya hua, padosiyo?’ to ‘Trophy door hi rahegaya ….’ There was some gloating over Indian prime Minister’s presence in the ground as India’s meltdown occurred.
But there was some appreciation as well for India’s overall showing and the efforts put up by the team as a whole. Pakistan took the fifth position among top playing nations in the tournament. There were mild references to the failure of Indian greats like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to rise to big occasions, at times.
Refreshingly for pro India fans, Pak netizens made no references to pending political issues with India, nor did they call for observing a special Id-like celebration as proposed by some in Bangladesh.
Some Kolkata-based analysts felt that perhaps the coming national elections in Bangladesh had been an indirect factor contributing to anti-India feelings in general. It was common knowledge that opposition parties there especially the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has always had a soft corner for Pakistan It also had an alliance with Islamic extremists earlier. Anything that upset the apple cart of the ruling AL, perceived to be pro-India in its political orientation, along with any setback for India, the AL’s major backer, was a good news for them
There is little doubt that for now, the initiative has shifted to anti-Indian elements in Bangladesh. However, there may be a price to pay for Bangladeshis. The reaction in neighbouring West Bengal has been equally vicious, to judge by recent Kolkata-based electronic media coverage.
Further there are reports that in the coming cash rich IPL cricket tournament, where cricketers earn major incomes, three Bangladeshi players registered with different teams — Shakib Al Hasan, Litton Das and Mustafizur Rahman, will not be considered for playing in the next season. At present, only Pakistani players remained banned from playing in the IPL. (IPA Service)