By Shujaat Bukhari
When Kashmir Super League-II culminated at Dubai’s International Cricket Stadium on March 24, it was not just the conclusion of three-month-long cricket tournament but it offered an opportunity for Kashmiri expatriates to celebrate the moment. For the first time in recent history, Kashmiris, not unmindful of what was happening back home put their heads together to showcase their talent and also resilience. For varied reasons stereotyping has remained the hallmark of describing a Kashmiri. Often being referred to as a community that is pampered and all the time needs to be fed by others, non-resident Kashmiris wherever they are have exhibited their excellence in every field. There is no census conducted as to how many Kashmiris have been living outside but the number runs in lakhs and they are spread across the world. Some of the Kashmiris by their sheer dint of diligence have reached zenith in their career thus making their homeland proud.
Likewise, those successful Kashmiris who live in United Arab Emirates did this by coming together under the umbrella of KSL since cricket is the game of South Asia and Kashmiris cannot remain away from this. For them vying for this game threw an opportunity to exhibit the sense of togetherness and also firming up their resolve to do something purely on their own. And that became evident on March 24 when nearly 2000 Kashmiris converged at Dubai international stadium to cheer for the teams in typical South Asian way. Here it was also different as the supporters used their mother tongue to cheer their teams and when it came to the fight between two teams named after uptown Rajbagh and downtown Razey Kadal the flavour reflected the unique character both the localities have. Not only was the enthusiasm making it look like a big game in the oval stadium but the participation of a 24-member delegation comprising academicians, journalists, businessmen and civil society members that had been invited by the organisers made it a real celebration as the KSL management called it a “new bondage and connecting to our roots”.
For them it was just an idea that kicked off over a cup of coffee. They never imagined it scaling this much of height. But the determination of some of the highly successful professionals who have otherwise excelled in their respective fields made it a reality. It started with just four teams in 2016 but when KSL-II culminated 24 teams—all of them drawn from UAE based community – it created waves back home and even some started suspecting a different hand behind this as one of the organisers quipped “because we have not seen anything coming up on our own obviously it was beyond expectations”.
“But we take that also in stride. Criticism is part of any success. We are committed to bring glory to our homeland through transparency and hard work.”
Four teams began playing the Twenty20 tournament, sponsored by “Dre Homes” — a real estate company — and was named as “Dre Homes Kashmir Super League. Season II with 224 players and 14 teams was inaugurated by international cricketer Parvez Rasool.
KSL-II turned out to be not just a cricket tourney on the pattern of Indian Premier League or Pakistan Super League but at the final it was like a Kashmir carnival encompassing everything from passion for cricket to relishing culture and history. All the teams were named after famous localities of Srinagar and other places that defined the way each bit of it was celebrated as a cultural mosaic. Inayat Fazili, Zubair Shah and Imran Malik three successful professionals were first to move the idea of creating KSL but they never thought it would grow so big in size and impact. For them getting the Kashmiri tea in traditional Samovar (the copper made utensil used for keeping the tea warm) and then sitting on the grass field in Ajman to warm up the teams was something like creating Kashmir in the deserts of UAE. Same Samovar was later presented by the delegation to the organisers as a token of love from Kashmir. The trophies too smelled of Kashmir. Rajbagh Royals lifted a copper cup with intricate design, which came from Kashmir. The man of the match trophies were of walnut wood and shaped like a chinar leaf.
While cricket is a favourite game for us and the bats are also made from Kashmir willow but the way the fever traveled to the deserts of Dubai was beyond one’s imagination. For organisers it was more about creating a Kashmir exclusive thing that could not be beaten. It was also to demonstrate that Kashmiris can do something on their own and can show to the world that they have capacity and talent. Back home they are embroiled in conflict and bloodletting has become the fate of the land. They are choked, spaces are shrunk but in the outside world they create their own spaces, which need to be celebrated.
Outside Kashmir they have increased their capacities and that is why a campaign by a fringe element back home to discredit KSL did not dampen their spirits. They are well aware how an honest effort is being coloured differently so that nothing positive is attributed to Kashmir. Those who indulged in this dirty game did not even know that all players were based in UAE and were sponsored transparently by successful businessmen here. Exhibiting their sick minds they used to calculate how much money it would mean to take 224 players from Kashmir to Dubai. Whatever the reason behind their targeted tirade it lifted the spirits of organisers to plan for KSL-3 in advance. The best thing that happened was that the positivity these young Kashmiris brought was not lost in this din created by a few “motivated” and may be sponsored individuals with a shady past.
In UAE, Kashmiri community is strong and according to estimates 10,000 people are settled there and many businessmen who have bought houses come and go. By coming together through cricket the community has sent a strong message that it is alive despite the fact that bullets continue to rain on the youth and the killing of three young men on March 28 stands testimony to the resistance being put by the people. While the resilience inside Kashmir has been on for centuries, they also need to show while being outside that their hope is not lost. They live on their own terms and exhibit their talent to tell the world that they have capacity to do in case the situation is conducive. KSL-II has been remarkable move to re-define Kashmir and that is the hope of life and resilience it carries. While diaspora has huge responsibility to tell to the rest of the world how deep the political wound is but at the same time it has to show that it is a community that is alive and can sustain and survive purely through hard work and its own imagination. God bless the KSL-II organisers who helped us to shun the tag of being only a pampered community.
The author is Editor in Chief of Rising Kashmir and may be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Shujaat Bukhari