Many masks have dropped since the beginning of the ‘farmer protests’ last year. Celebrities, who popular in their respective fields, came forward and lent their support to extremely problematic stances and embraced problematic rhetoric to lend their support towards the same.
But a certain line was crossed on the 6th of June, the death anniversary of Khalistani terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Former cricketer of the Indian national team, Harbhajan Singh, came out openly in support of Bindranwale in an Instagram story.
Harbhajan Singh glorified Bhindranwale as a ‘martyr’ and offered him ‘pranam’. Unfortunately, ‘Bhajji’ was not the only cricketer who glorified a terrorist on the day of his death anniversary. Harpreet Brar, another cricketer, posted a quote of the terrorist on Twitter which said, “I don’t fear for a physical death, but when my conscience dies, that is my real death.”
Both these players still play in the Indian Premier League. Harpreet Brar plays for the Punjab Kings and Harbhajan plays for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). Brar also plays for the Punjab cricket Association in domestic tournaments.
Thus, the cricket associations, including the BCCI and the IPL have serious questions to answer here. Do they permit terrorist sympathisers to participate in their competitions?
Only yesterday, Ollie Anderson, a cricketer for England, was suspended from all international cricket after tweets he made as a teenager resurfaced on social media. The problematic tweets were racist for which the cricketer had already apologised. But he was suspended for them nonetheless.
And here we have cricketers playing in the IPL glorifying a terrorist in 2021. Will the BCCI and IPL allow such conduct to go unpunished? We are not speaking of controversial posts made by teenagers here. We are speaking about cricketers glorifying a terrorist who wanted to break India along religious lines.
We are well aware that a cricketer could not get away with speaking in favour of ISIS or Al Qaeda. It would merit international condemnation and the person would be banned within hours. And yet, a day has passed since Brar made the tweet and yet, there has no been no statement from either the BCCI or the IPL.
Not taking action against Brar and Harbhajan Singh would set a dangerous precedent for the future. The respective IPL teams, Punjab Kings and Kolkata Knight Rider, need to make their stand clear as well.
Cricket is the most popular sport in India and cricketers are universally recognised as heroes in the country. The effort to normalise a terrorist by cricketers wouldmark a dangerous trend if not nipped at the bud.
In a cricket loving country such as India, the BCCI cannot afford to act only as a management and administrative board alone. It has a duty towards the citizens of India to uphold and promote the integrity and security of this nation.
That duty is not served by allowing cricketers to glorify terrorists online. Some might argue that what happens off the pitch should not affect the circumstances on the ground but that is not how societies work or communities are meant to function.
There is minimum decency that is to be expected from those who wear the badge for the country and represent their states in domestic tournaments. Glorifying terrorists goes against all established norms of decency and propriety.
BCCI cannot afford to ignore cricketers glorifying those who committed crimes against humanity. BCCI has a duty to serve cricket but it also has a social responsibility to support the social good. It cannot compromise with the latter.