India at T20 World Cup: Taking an easy knee for BLM

Indian cricket team misses an opportunity to show solidarity with domestic movements


October 26, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

India at T20 World Cup: Taking an easy knee for BLM

The Indian cricket team taking a knee to showcase solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement (Photo courtesy of Disney + Hotstar)

India’s maiden match at the T20 Men’s World Cup saw many boundaries being broken and new records being set, which incidentally also includes the Indian team’s kneeling down for Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, drawing criticism for turning their back on numerous Indian causes.

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Ahead of India’s much-awaited clash with Pakistan in T20 World Championships currently on in the UAE, the Indian team led by Virat Kohli took a knee to showcase solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The BLM movement, which was set in motion after the murder of African-American man George Floyd, has attracted support from many countries across the world.

Indian captain Kohli said that kneeling down for the BLM was communicated to them by the management. “We accepted our side of things and that was how it was decided,” said Kohli during the virtual post-match press conference.

Indian cricket team not vocal for local causes

The action, whether done at the behest of the regulatory organisation for the sport, the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), was watched by hundreds of millions of cricket fans across India as well as in other parts of the world watching the live telecast of the most hyped-up match of the Championship.

And within minutes, Twitter feed from India was flooded with criticism of the team for taking up a cause that has little to do with India, while having ignored dozens of local injustices meted out in India over the past few years.

Not only have the cricketers remained stoically silent on these issues, but also jumped in on any international celebrity commenting on the various troubles in India, ranging from farmers’ protest to attacks on Muslims. For instance, earlier this year, when pop icon Rihanna, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and the US Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris extended their support to farmers protesting in India, the Indian Ministry for External Affairs (MEA) responded with acerbic comments. “The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” it said.

The MEA’s tweet was soon followed by a flood of tweets by Bollywood celebrities and cricketers, including Kohli, with the same hashtags as those used by the MEA.

“From Sachin Tendulkar to Virat Kohli, for all of these cricketers, it was an internal matter of India when farmers were in question,” Rajratna Ambedkar, the President of Buddhist Society of India and great-grandnephew of the Father of Indian Constitution B R Ambedkar tells Media India Group.

“Our farmers and Dalits have been one of the most downtrodden communities in the whole world. They have been stripped of their human and fundamental rights. Yet the team chose to never stand up for that cause,” he says.

With farmers lives matter and Dalit lives matter also being widely recognised movements in India, Ambedkar asserts that the Indian team should have instead taken these issues to the international stage through the vital match.

No knee against Islamophobia

The match that finally ended with Pakistan being victorious led to a massive backlash, all directed towards the only Muslim player in the Indian team playing the match, ace Indian bowler Mohammad Shami. Trolled online with filthy abuses, Shami, who clearly seemed to have an off day on the pitch, was judged by his religion.

“Messages to and about Shami on social media were Indian bigotry at its worst: He was hounded, humiliated, and asked if he had sold his soul to Pakistan. Some asked if he deliberately gave runs to the Pakistani team; others accused him of being a traitor and an anti-national,” writes Rana Ayyub, an Indian journalist. Fortunately, soon after the attack, all leading Indian cricketers came out in support of Shami, with the glaring exception of the BCCI and its political bosses, whose own leanings are not too far from those of the trolls.

“Taking a knee is a powerful symbol when public figures stand against brazen oppression. In 2016, American football star Colin Kaepernick knelt before the national anthem because he said he could not take pride in the anthem of a country that oppressed the Black people. It was a strong statement and it forced others in the public eye to re-evaluate and question their own commitment to fairness and justice. But when the Indian cricket team took a knee at the behest of the Cricket administration in India, their hypocrisy was overwhelming,” she continues.

Though the Indian crickets failed to raise the numerous discriminations and attacks on various underprivileged groups of the society, some experts welcome the fact that the team has at least raised an important global issue in a first for the team.

“The BLM movement which stands against racism validates the experiences of discrimination faced by Africans residing in India as well as the discrimination faced by many other communities,” Aparna, a Ph.D. scholar in sociology from Jawahar Lal Nehru University tells Media India Group.

“Hence, any kind of support to the BLM movement is welcome however, it is worth noting that such support is often for international movements and not for home causes,” she adds.

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