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The hoisting of Indian flag by Kohli's Pakistani cricket fan epitomizes cross-border unity

Stories like the recent hoisting of Indian flag by Kohli's Pakistani cricket fan are heartwarming in a world otherwise full of problems.

Virat Kohli’s fan-following has crossed borders and oceans over the years.

When Muhammad Iqbal recited his poem “Saare Jahan se accha Hindustan humara” at the Government College, Lahore in 1905, little did people know that the same Lahore will not be part of Hindustan within 50 years. And today 68 years since the partition in 1947, India & Pakistan are bitter rivals. The two countries have fought wars; some official and some unofficial. The animosity has only increased with the passage of time. Several governments have come and gone in both the countries but no one has been able to resolve the dispute.

Some battles have been fought in the sub-zero temperatures of Kashmir while some other friendly ones have been fought on the cricket field. But in spite of these battles we have had small incidents which are in sync with Iqbal’s line – “Mazhab nahin sikhata, aapas mein bair rakhna”.

The recent incident of a Pakistani cricket fan, Umraz Draz who hoisted the Indian tri-color in Pakistan to celebrate India’s Virat Kohli’s batting performance was one such instance. Unfortunately Draz had no idea of a certain section 123-A of Pakistan Penal Code and 16 Maintenance of Public order. These acts led to his arrest and he has been sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment.

Not the first instance of support for a sports person from across the border

While this is not the first instance where an Indian cricketer has had a fan following in Pakistan or vice versa. The likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar & Virender Sehwag among others have had huge fan following in Pakistan. Similarly Pakistani greats like Wasim Akram, Inzamam-ul-Haq etc. were popular among the Indian fans during their playing days.

Even world over, the field of sports has been beyond national boundaries. People love and follow sportsmen across borders. Last week itself we saw a heartening image of a kid in conflict-ridden Iraq wearing a jersey of football star Leonil Messi.

Hope that Draz’s ‘offence’ is pardoned

Coming back to the incident of hoisting of Indian flag in Pakistan, there will definitely be an inquiry to ascertain if Draz is an Indian spy and I sincerely hope that he isn’t one. He has already urged the authorities to pardon him. He told the reporters that the only reason for hoisting of Indian flag on the rooftop of his house was his love for India’s batting sensation and Test Captain Virat Kohli.  

Now, we will have to wait and see if the Pakistani authorities buy his story of being just a Kohli fan. And I don’t blame the authorities, for they too have a duty to perform. The sports fan within me will be delighted if he turns out to be just a common cricket fan who was too naïve to understand that it’s an offence to hoist ones neighbor’s flag in his backyard.

Such stories give us hope for the future

Given the current diplomatic situation between India and Pakistan, there has been a lot of debate on whether India should play cricket with Pakistan. A cricket fan will argue that sports and politics should be kept separate and that cricket should be played between the two neighbors. On the other hand, few others will say that cricket is out of questions when our soldiers are dying at the border. It is a never ending debate which does not seem to have an immediate end.

I am not for a moment suggesting that India should indeed play Pakistan, but instances like Draz’s hoisting of Indian flag just 200 kms from Lahore in Pakistan gives solace to me that humanity still exists. Amidst all the negative news of terror attacks and cross-border firing, it is news like these which make one’s day.

One gets a hope that with the fact there are still people who appreciate a player on the basis of his performance and not due to his nationality. I will be happy if we have more of such heartwarming stories coming out from the two countries and probably one day we will be able to sing “Saare jahan se accha, Hindustan humara, Hum bulbulein hain is ki, ye gulsitan humara” in its original form.

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