Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Santosh in Kashmir


7 June, 08.

A Kashmiri, was lying on the ground in obvious pain.
A Punjabi had hit him.
He now sat and spit out tinges of blood.

In the background someone can be heard exclaiming:

Ha yemis’ha Tchu, yaara, khoon ye’vaan!


The Kashmiri was a forward and the Punjabi a defender.
Or maybe it was the way round.
Anyway, the game resumed.

Last night, I was watching on TV a Santosh Trophy quarterfinal league match between J&K and defending champions Punjab, and it turned out to be shocker. Santosh Trophy, India’s premier football tournament whose history goes back to the year 1941, is this year being held in Kashmir and is being sponsored by J&K Bank – possibly the richest institution in the J&K state since all the state coffers are with them. Football isn’t new to Kashmir, in fact, Kashmiris had their first “impure” brush with a football in around 1905 thanks to the head of a Christian Missionary School. Kashmiris are perhaps among the first in India to have learnt the game from the British; and yet, the rest of the story is only of neglect and general apathy.

The stands looked entry but the sounds of the TV suggested there was a healthy crowd in the Stadium. Srinagar field looked a bit green, if not too green. The TV coverage was sloppy as usual: at the moment of a corner kick, the camera looked more interested in making one read a banner hung in the crowd, and as usual there were no ‘action-replay’.

Scoreboard reading nil-nil after sixty minutes of play may not seem like telling of an exciting match, but those who know Indian soccer can certainly call it a hard fought match. I wanted my home team J&K to win. Although the goalie looked a little sloop,
I thought the team was playing fine. But then in the 68th minute, Punjab scored and all hell broke loose. Horror. It was Kashmir all over again on TV.

The camera was now panning on a section of the crowd that you thought didn’t exist, and there was much screaming and yelling. The camera zoomed onto a boy in the stand laughing and yelling, raising a fist in the air. Some other faces looked worried and sad faces. I thought I heard a cry peculiar to Kashmir. The game stopped. A few men in Khaki were looking towards stand, a few of them looking aggressive waving a laathi. The camera zoomed in on to a stone lying on the football field, stayed put for a few seconds. The cameramen, who had earlier trouble covering corner kicks, were now in their elements; it seems they were covering a more familiar subject.

This wasn’t the end of it.

The crowd started to surge forward. They broke the fences. The players started running. The Punjab players started running, the J&K player were walking back calmly and almost looking sad. Or may be it was a sad scene. A J&K player in white jersey ran in the direction of the fleeing Punjab players in yellow jerseys. The crowd running amok had by now captured the field, perhaps wondering what now.

Zee Sports breaks into an Ad:

How is the situation in Kashmir?
Tense.
Bengal has the corner.

And then they start telecasting some motor racing event where the graphics are in French.
My thoughts went to the “Kapil Dev incident in Srinagar” that my father often recounts. Indian Cricket Team was playing West Indies in Srinagar, and the crowd gave a feeling to Kapil Dev that he was in Pakistan. Finally, my thoughts went back to a scene from the football match: hands of that sleepy looking Sikh goolie of Kashmir team, missing the ball in a comic fashion and a defender kicking the ball out of danger area, saving what would have been a shameful goal.

-0-

According to the Press Trust of India (PTI), a clash between the media persons and the organizers for alleged misbehavior by the latter distracted the crowd who started pelting stones towards the area of commotion. Quoting an official it says "The match will resume for the remaining 22 minutes at 0800 hrs tomorrow at the same venue"

Hope they won.

-0-
Kashmir eventually lost the game.
During my trip to Kashmir, the subject of this particular football match did crop up in an entertaining conversation with the Kashmiri driver of my rented vehicle. The fellow turned out to be an avid football fan and according to him: the real cause of the trouble was the fact that Punjab scored the goal from the half line. The outrageous goal shocked the local crowd who believed that the ball was in the non-offensive half of the field at the time of the play – hence it should have been a ‘no goal’.
Hence the trouble.
-0-

You may also like to read about:
The Argentinean football coach who got bashed up in Kashmir (May 30, 2007)
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A photograph from National Geographic Magazine, Vol 40, 1921

2 comments:

  1. your comment on J&K bank needs be corrected. On various counts. True the Bank is the flagship company of the state but not because it holds state coffers (what doesthat mean in any case) but because it is one of the fastest growing banks in the country. infact the bank is the lender of last resort to the state government. Its major proportion of business lies outside J&K.And you will be surprised to know that more than 40% ownership of the bank is not with kashmiris, or Indians but with foreign institutional investors.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Zamir,
    Thanks for the comment.
    State coffers means state treasury.
    That line of mine wasn't meant to belittle the bank.
    What you said about the bank is true, but i hope you also realise that 53% of it is still owned by the state government and the bank continues to be the sole banker of the J&K Govt. One may say that this doesn't mean much ,but,here is the profile of the bank from its official site:
    * Plan and non -plan funds, taxes and non-tax revenues routed through the bank.
    * Salaries of Government offcials disbursed by the Bank.
    * Only private sector bank designated as agent of RBI for banking.
    * Carries out banking business of the Central Government.
    * Collects taxes pertaining to Central Board of Direct Taxes in J & K.

    The fact remains that majority of its holdings come from the State.
    -0-

    Anyway, this post wasn't about J&K bank.

    ReplyDelete

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