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Open letter to Yogi Adityanath: Cricket test that boomerangs

A. J. Philip A. J. Philip
08 Nov 2021
An Open Letter to U.P. Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath

Dear Shri Yogi Adityanath Ji,

I do not have to tell you about Plato, who was a pivotal figure in the history of Ancient Greek and Western Philosophy. His greatest work is The Republic. In the book, he introduces the concept of the Philosopher King, who would be the ideal person to rule a city or a country. The key to the notion of the Philosopher King is that the philosopher is the only person who can be trusted to rule well. 

Philosophers are both morally and intellectually suited to rule: morally because it is in their nature to love truth and learning so much that they are free from the greed and lust that tempt others to abuse power and intellectually because they alone can gain full knowledge of the forms of Virtue, Beauty, and, above all, the Good.

When you came to power in Uttar Pradesh, I remembered Plato’s concept because you were the first religious leader to become the head of a state in India. I thought you being a monk, you would be above need and fame and would concentrate on implementing welfare measures. In other words, I thought you approximated Plato’s Philosopher King.

Let my readers conclude whether you as Chief Minister tried to uphold the virtues of Lord Ram, whose name you mention day in and day out. I would like to recall an episode in the Ramayana. When Ram, accompanied by wife Sita and brother Lakshman went to the forest to spend 14 years of Vanvas, his brother Bharat, who was to succeed him, was not in Ayodhya. When he returned to Ayodhya, he heard about the cataclysmic incidents that happened in his absence. Worse, King Dasharata was also no more.

Bharat meets Ram in the forest and tries in vain to persuade him to return. One of the first things Ram asks Bharat is about the welfare of a small minority community in Ayodhya. He assures him that they are safe. Ram knew that a country where the minorities were safe was a safe and prosperous country. Let the minorities of UP feel like the minorities of Ayodhya that they live safely and peacefully.

You may wonder why I am writing this letter to you. It is to bring to your notice a small incident that happened at Agra. I am sure you would have known about the incident. Three students of the Raja Balwant Singh Engineering Technical College, Agra have been sent to jail on sedition charges.

They are Arsheef Yusuf, Inayat Altaf Sheikh and Showkat Ahmed Ganai. All the three are from the “Union Territory” of Jammu and Kashmir. They have been studying there under the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme. They are from poor families and would not have been able to study there but for the scholarship. I have read that at least two of them were, academically speaking, doing very well. In other words, they were good students.

Let me admit, they made a mistake. Like millions of Indians, they watched the recent T20 World Cup match in which Pakistan defeated India. Victory and defeat are two sides of the same coin. The truth is that the better team which plays better will win. India, unfortunately, did not play better than Pakistan and that is why India lost. Later, it lost to New Zealand also.

The students used their social media tools like WhatsApp to celebrate the victory of Pakistan. I would say that it was an act of indiscretion. Allowance should also be made for their age. They are barely out of their teens. Why I mention their age is because a worldly-wise person would not have done so. 

I personally do not feel happy or unhappy when India wins or is defeated in a cricket match because I do not even consider cricket as a great sport.

Cricket is not even included in the Olympics. It is a money-making game. That is why Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s son Jay Amitbhai Shah is  the head of the Asian Cricket Council. He became the secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India in 2019. The BCCI has a budget larger than the budgets of some states in the Northeast.

Cricket has produced some false Gods. One of them was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, where in six glorious years, he made one singular speech. Recently, the Pandora papers mentioned his name and that of his wife and father-in-law. His lawyer says that the offshore firm was wound up and the proceeds were legally brought back to India.

The point is why did such a person try to invest his money in an offshore company, mainly to save tax? Was his crime less abominable than the WhatsApp messages of the trio? While I was a Class VIII or IX student, a visiting Russian football team had a match with the Indian team at Thiruvananthapuram. If I remember correctly the score was 13:0.

A few years ago, I took a junior football team to Thiruvananthapuram. In one match our team had a similar kind of experience. On both occasions, I felt bad. In the latter case, I made it a point to shake hands with the victorious team and congratulated them for their splendid performance. Was I betraying my team when I congratulated the rival team?

If Pakistan beats New Zealand or Britain or Australia or West Indies, I will certainly celebrate its victory. My logic is simple. Pakistan is our neighbour. The Bible teaches me to “love thy neighbour as you love thyself”. When I had a heart attack, it was my neighbour who drove me to the hospital, not my relatives in Kerala! 

Incidentally, let me also mention something which you may find unbelievable. I have travelled to 40 plus countries, including America, China, Canada, Dubai, Australia, Mongolia, Peru, South Africa, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Italy, France, Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Mauritius, South Africa, Pakistan, including Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

As an Indian, nowhere did I get as much respect as I got in Pakistan. One can call Pakistan a failed state, a terrorist state etc but the people there are the warmest and most welcoming. I would request you to make a visit to Pakistan. I can bet that you will get a lot more respect there than even in India. You can visit any restaurant and the moment they know that you are from India, you will be given a discount. In your case, they will consider it an honour to welcome you. 

Of course, don’t go there with your black cat commandos because they are fed up with seeing such commandos all the time. You can check the veracity of my statement with anyone from India who visited Pakistan in any capacity and spent some time with the ordinary people there.

In the instant case, the boys admitted that they made a mistake. I have read the comment of a college official that the boys did not shout any anti-India slogans. They also apologised for the blunder they made. Initially, the police filed a case under Section 153 A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code. Later on, Section 124 A was added to the case.

The last section deals with sedition. That makes the charges against them serious. They have been sent to 14 days’ judicial custody. Since they have not done anything illegal, other than celebrating Pakistan’s cricket victory, they will not be convicted. They will be released after a few years of trial. By then they would have become hardened anti-Indians. And their poor parents, who had high hopes, would have been ruined.

Is this what you, as Chief Minister, want for three errant boys? Now you know what they did. Do you know what some of your supporters did? They tried to enter the campus, raise anti-Pakistan slogans and manhandle them. Who gave them the right to take the law into their own hands? Are they not more criminal than the threesome whose only fault is that they celebrated the victory of the better team. What action have you taken against them?

What’s worse, the lawyers of Agra refused to appear for them. When the lawyers are ready to defend multiple-murderers, serial rapists and those who looted the country of thousands of crores of rupees, they are not ready to defend three young men. As advocates, they are duty-bound to take up the case of anyone who is ready to pay his or her fees. 

Instead, as a report suggests, they were allowed to be heckled when they were presented before the judge. Unbelievable as it may sound, the lawyers also allegedly raised slogans against the three students. Did they crown themselves with glory by behaving in this manner? The lawyers have no right to prejudge a person. They have proved unworthy of the right to practice law. Finally, the three were forced to approach Advocate MD Chaturvedi, who has been representing journalist Siddique Kappen, who has been in jail for no rhyme or reason, other than certain accidents in his life like his own birth and the free lift he got to visit your state from Delhi.

Sedition is a law introduced by the British. They have themselves removed it from their statute. The Supreme Court of India has been warning time and again against the practice of invoking the law on the flimsiest grounds. Mosquitoes can be killed with a rolled newspaper. Nobody uses a hammer against it. Using the law of sedition against the three boys is like using MIC, which accidentally leaked in Bhopal, to kill flies.

I am sure you would have heard about a nonagenarian British politician Norman Tebbit. Here, let me mention that I am not an admirer of this politician. In April 1990, he gave an interview to the Los Angeles Times where he first mentioned what came to be known as the Cricket Test, also called the Tebbit test.

The test was in reference to the perceived lack of loyalty to the England cricket team among South Asian and Caribbean immigrants and their children. Tebbit suggested that those immigrants who support their native countries rather than England at the sport of cricket are not significantly integrated into the United Kingdom.

Tebbit said: "A large proportion of Britain's Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It's an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?” I don’t consider the test the right way to test patriotism.

Now, imagine how would you react if the British citizens of Indian origin are sent to jail on sedition charges just because they cheered the Indian cricket team when they played against the British team in Britain? We live in a Global Village and we should not be oblivious of the international ramifications of anything that we do.

For your information, I belong to the Mar Thoma Syrian Church with its headquarters at Thiruvalla in Kerala. In our church we follow the same liturgy. In that liturgy, there is a special prayer for the President of India, the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers. 
When the liturgy is used in Britain, the local congregation will change the President’s name to that of the Queen of England, and in America to the President of the US. If there is a worship service in Saudi Arabia, the prayer will be suitably altered to include the King of Saudi Arabia.

India is a mighty nation. Our greatest strength is the unity of the people who belong to all religions and who speak different languages and dialects. A Malayali like me looks different from a UPiite like you as a Gujarati looks different from a Kashmiri and an Assamese looks different from a Naga. And yet we are all Indians. You are a monk and a ruler as well.

You have the power to let the three boys off the hook. Yes, they can be counselled on how a good citizen should behave. The heavens will not fall if you withdraw the sedition charge against them so that they can continue their studies and tell their poor parents how magnanimous you are. Instead, if you take the line that the law will take its own course, it will only expose you to the charge of being a ruthless, insensitive ruler. The choice is yours.

Your etc

ajphilip@gmail.com 

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