India vs Australia: The Men (And Women) of the Match Were the Anti-CAA Protesters

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India vs Australia: The Men (And Women) of the Match Were the Anti-CAA Protesters

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

On Tuesday, India crashed to a meek and embarrassing 10-wicket defeat to Australia – the first for an Indian captain – but that does not mean there was no show of resistance at Wankhede Stadium. Just that it didn’t come from our cricketers themselves. Rather, displaying more backbone than the capitulating Indian batting line-up, a group of spectators at the ground chose to use the first ODI of the India-Australia series as a platform for a peaceful anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest. They wore white shirts emblazoned with letters, which when they stood together spelled out “No CAA”, “No NPR”, and “No NRC”. The group was either ejected from the stadium or left of their own accord (there are differing reports), but not before cameras captured their message, and made it one of the biggest talking points of an otherwise unremarkable cricket match.

Whatever your opinion is on the CAA and the protests going on around the country, you have to appreciate the ingenuity of the protesters. An India-Australia ODI match is a big deal with millions tuning in from across the world, making it the perfect place for those looking to amplify the visibility of their message. It seems like the Mumbai Cricket Association was also thinking along the same lines, as reports emerged of the stadium’s security teams barring entry to those wearing any black items of clothing, lest they be used to protest CAA. Social media was rife with reports of black T-shirts and black caps being confiscated at the gates, which makes the successful execution of the Wankhede protest even more admirable.

Wankhede Stadium

College students participate in a peaceful protest against Citizenship Amendment Act.

Mirror Now/ Twitter

Apart from being clever, the act of protest was also brave. In fact, the protesters took a stand that nobody from the Indian cricket team’s fraternity has been courageous enough to take, one of dissent against the establishment. While the anti-CAA protests continue to gather momentum across India, India’s sports community has been largely silent. As for the cricketers themselves, with the exception of Irfan Pathan and Akash Chopra (both retired), they’ve been practising the art of leaving tricky deliveries by deflecting discussions on CAA. 

Judging from the responses of our cricketers, it looks like voicing a controversial opinion is even harder than beating Australia for India’s sporting superstars.

The earliest example was when former Indian cricket captain and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly attempted to patronisingly dismiss his daughter Sana’s post criticising the measure as the words of someone who “doesn’t understand politics”. Dada, your daughter is 18 years old and old enough to vote. Or maybe it is your newfound professional proximity to Jay Shah, son of Home Minister Amit Shah, that prompted you to silence Sana. Even the current captain Virat Kohli has averred from commenting, saying that he doesn’t want to make a statement on something he does not fully understand. Fair enough. At least he’s admitting it himself and it’s not his parents who are whitewashing his statements like Ganguly did with his daughter. Team India head coach Ravi Shastri did take a definitive stand, where he chose to come out in support of CAA, urging patience and saying that “plenty of positives” could come out of the law in the long run. Judging from the responses of our cricketers, present and former, in the last few weeks, it looks like voicing a controversial opinion is even harder than beating Australia for India’s sporting superstars.

Nobody is saying the cricketers have to become Opposition spokesmen but their deafening silence has been noticed. Perhaps that could be why some fans chose to take it upon themselves to raise awareness about the issue at Wankhede. It was a fine choice – the CAA might have introduced a religious angle to the idea of India’s citizenship, but cricket is truly the religion that unites all Indians.

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