The great Nelson Mandela once said - “No one is born hating another person because of colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to human art than its opposite".
There certainly seems to be a lot of essence in what Mandela said, but in reality, it appears that people are learning how to hate with every passing day. Each day we come across new cases of racism and unfortunately, sports is no exception to this trend.
The latest incident that has rocked the world of cricket involves the Indian cricket team, in particular, pacers Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah. The pacers were reportedly subject to racist abuse during the third Test match at Sydney, that too consecutively for two days.
As per reports, both of them were targeted by 'drunken' Australian supporters. The Indian team has also lodged an official complaint, and today, six fans were removed from the stadium for further enquiry. Cricket Australia, in response to the incident also tendered an apology to the Indian players, and many senior Australian players have strongly condemned this racist abuse.
But, to my mind, the issue does not end here. Such abuse has been on show for quite a few years now. The first such incident surfaced when the South African fast bowler Makhaya Ntini was subjected to racial abuse. After that incident, the International Cricket Council (ICC) put in place a policy of anti- racism to ensure that the cricketers, regardless of their race, colour, religion, descent, culture or origin can play without any discrimination.
Notably, all the members of ICC, including Australia and India, also have a very robust policy against racism. A spectator passing such racist remarks can be banned from watching a live cricket match for his/her entire life.
That said, we have all ideal systems. But what is really important is to ensure that the enquiry about this racial abuse is taken to its logical end, and a deterrent punishment is awarded.
The Australian Anti Discrimination Act is also a very strong tool and the New South Wales Government, the association responsible for the smooth conduct of the game will come into action.
For a long time now, the NSW government has treated such acts of racism on the ground of race as a criminal offence, and as we understand, if proved, it carries a penalty of $10,000 fine or six-month imprisonment.
If a punishment of such nature is imposed, only then will all such anti-racism codes and state enactments have some meaning. Very few mischievous people give disrepute to their sporting nation as well as the game. They must be dealt with strongly.
Lest one forgets, the Indian cricket team members have gone through a lot of hardships in recent times. Isolation and strict SOPs to ensure that the cricket season in Australia goes on smoothly and the board is financially viable. The players are subjected to strict quarantine rules and their every activity is monitored and enquired.
What's more, it is required to clearly distinguish racist abuse from all other things, including sledging. Racist abuse is not only an issue about the sports, but it is a very big social issue. Hence, we cannot close this episode with an apology or warning.
Some strict action is certainly needed, for we don’t want to see the same fans turning up to the stadium for the next match with 'smiling faces' and a new dose of racial abuse.Published 10 Jan 2021, 19:59 IST