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Indo-Pak Semi-final: Kashmiris bothered only about the match

When the prime ministers of the two nations meet on Wednesday, the only thing in the mind of Kashmir’s population would be cricket.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Mar 30, 2011, 08.17 AM IST
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SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir usually follows diplomatic exchanges between New Delhi and Islamabad most enthusiastically. However, when the prime ministers of the two nations meet on Wednesday, the only thing in the mind of the state’s population would be cricket. Officially, it is a semi-final , but for us it is the final match of the world cup,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a mechanic.

He is not working on Wednesday, even if that would cost him his job. Such has been the cricket frenzy during this world cup that roads and malls see very few people in the afternoons. Wednesday is likely to see deserted streets across the state. A number of schools would either be closed or will call it a day around noon, enabling teachers and students to watch the semi-final between arch-rivals India and Pakistan. Teachers in a private school joked about students applying for sick leave in advance. Afterall, one can predict cricket fever. An uptown hotel will serve Wazwan to guests who will get to watch the match on the big screen. The package costs Rs 500 per head.

“Even the cafeteria in the university is installing a projector so that more students get to watch the match and there will be a bit of better business,” said Abdur Razak , a student. Some villages in north Kashmir have raised money to hire a projector to watch the match on the big screen. Even the Army has set up giant TV screens in some villages to watch the match. To prevent interruption of the match due to the massive load-shedding the state is undergoing, diesel generators have been hired by several groups.

An engineer in the state electricity board cited the case of people from a locality in the old city making a plea: “Don’t supply electricity to our area on Tuesday, but ensure there is no power failure on Wednesday until the match ends.” They even threatened violence in case of a power cut on Wednesday. The locality went without power since early morning on Tuesday, giving the impression that the electricity board had conceded to the unusual request. Several Kashmiris have traditionally supported the Pakistan cricket team. But this time, even bigoted supporters of Pakistan are in a fix, as they feel the Indian team is superior.

To avoid an Indo-Pak clash on the cricket field, they even wished that Pakistan would lose to West Indies or India to Australia in the quarter-final matches. “Anything would have been fine to save Pakistan from disgrace,” said driver Abdul Majid Khan. Khan has decided against watching the match. “I am not working tomorrow, I will sleep,” he said. Khan accuses the media of politicising the game. Some TV channels have converted the match into a war. For the first time, politics has been left to politicians. Almost every political party has welcomed the scheduled meeting of prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani. But they don’t expect the two leaders to hold talks on Kashmir.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah says even the thaw in Indo-Pak relations would have a direct bearing on J&K . “When relations between the two neighbours are cordial, J&K gets optimum benefit,” he said in Jammu. Omar admitted the semi-final match had attained political significance because of Gilani’s visit. “At the end of the day, only one team will emerge victorious. However, this is not supposed to impact the ongoing dialogue process,” he told reporters hoping it would continue to create a healthy situation for resolution of issues.

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