People in Kashmir didn’t wait until the end of the Champion’s Trophy final to celebrate Pakistan win. No sooner did the pacer Mohammad Aamir claim three quick wickets including the key scalp of Viral Kohli, the youth hit the roads, bursting crackers, lighting fireworks and shouting pro-Pakistan slogans. Unlike in the past when such celebrations were largely urban centric, the people in the countryside massively joined in the festivity. In Srinagar, a large number of youth gathered near Grand Mosque to follow what was deemed as the favourable progress of the game. And with every Indian wicket falling, the crowd burst into a round of applause followed by the bursting of more crackers. Prepared for such a turn of events, the state government let the celebrations go unchallenged lest any security intervention lead to situation spinning out of control. The government had taken many precautionary measures in view of the match and the expected celebrations should Pakistan win. A day ahead the restrictions were imposed on movement of people in downtown Srinagar although Hurriyat had not called any shutdown or protest on the day. Similarly, the administration at Srinagar’s National Institute of Technology ordered the campus gates shut after 5pm. No student was allowed to leave the campus after this time, ostensibly to prevent the celebration over Pakistan win. Though there is nothing new about the Valley’s celebration of Pakistan victory against any cricket team, much more so against India, this time the joy and its manifestation was uninhibited and unprecedented. This was despite the fact that earlier the security forces had allegedly vandalized dozens of shops and vehicles in Vehil village of Shopian after locals burst firecrackers following Pakistan’s victory. The love for Pakistan cricket team in Kashmir and celebration of its victory goes too far back and is too spontaneous and natural a reaction to be exclusively connected to the valley’s ongoing turmoil and the recent developments. In fact, some seeds of the ongoing Azadi movement can be traced to the first ever international cricket match played in Srinagar. As the match started with India batting first, the stadium erupted with Pakistan Zindabad slogans every time a wicket fell and later when West Indians hit four or six. When Kirti Azad hit two sixes in a stumbling Indian innings of 176, only a few in the stadium cheered catching even the applauders by surprise. In Kashmir, India-Pakistan cricket matches have become less and less of a game and more and more of a political tug of war The spectators also waved images of Pakistani players including that of Imran Khan, and hit Indian fielders with apples and bottles. During the lunch break, a group of youth swarmed the ground and tried to dig holes in the pitch. Some of these youth later arrested for the offense went on to become the militant commanders. Six years after the match the JKLF emerged on the scene followed by Hizbul Mujahideen, then Lashker, Jaish and scores of other militant organisations in between. And eight years later Hurriyat was formed. Ever since, in Kashmir, India-Pakistan cricket matches have become less and less of a game and more and more of a political tug of war. The celebration that follows a Pakistan triumph is less about the demonstration of loyalty to Pakistan and more about the absolute rejection of New Delhi. It is about the seething rage against India’s atrocities in Valley, which is only reinforced by every new killing or a blinding. The celebration is also a response to the jingoistic coverage of Kashmir by a rabid section of media, especially by some news channels. A day before the match a top television anchor had warned Kashmiris against celebrating Pakistan win, saying in case they did so, they shall be sent to Pakistan. This made celebrations a prestige issue for a large section of youth. Some of them also wrote about the provocation in their Facebook posts. “Yesterday Mr (Arnab) Goswami demanded that we (Kashmiri people) support India and many like me who had either lost interest in this chauvinist-aggressive game or supported the Indian cricket team for so long flipped. We are rebels, we do not like to be told what to do,” wrote a girl on her Facebook timeline. The celebration has to do with the local politics too: It is a backlash against a deep sense of political disempowerment of Kashmir, blamed on the machinations of New Delhi. And of course, it is also about the larger political conflict over Kashmir which has turned the state into a battleground between India and Pakistan and whose persistence is again squarely blamed by majority of the people on India. In Kashmiri imagination, New Delhi has become an enemy with dark designs on Kashmir. The consequent fear of the country has brought the people in Kashmir to bay, forcing them to confront the state. It has bred a psychology where any country which stands up to New Delhi is seen as a saviour and a friend. Hence the joy over the defeat of India’s cricket team by any world team. But when the team is Pakistan, it becomes even more special because the country is seen on the side of the people of Valley as against New Delhi which is largely identified with its all-encompassing security apparatus in the state. Humara jashen hee humara almiya hai (In our celebration lies our tragedy), wrote a Kashmiri man on social media about the Sunday’s cricket festivity in Kashmir. The post very well sums up the situation in the state. The writer is a journalist based in Srinagar Published in Daily Times, June 25th, 2017.