New Delhi – A torrent of social media abuse was aimed at India’s only Muslim player, bowler Mohammed Shami, after his side were thrashed by archrival Pakistan at cricket’s T20 World Cup.
Violence against Muslims was also reported after the emphatic 10-wicket win on Sunday, Pakistan’s first against India at any World Cup.
Cricket clashes between Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan frequently heighten tensions between the neighbors, who have fought three wars since their independence in 1947.
The 31-year-old Shami became the main target after the defeat in Dubai, even though India captain Virat Kohli acknowledged that his side had been “outplayed.”
Thousands of vitriolic messages were left on social media, including Shami’s Instagram account, calling him a traitor and alleging he had taken money to throw the game.
But a host of Indian cricket legends, fans and politicians also spoke out against the hate onslaught and urged support for him.
“The online attack on Mohammad Shami is shocking and we stand by him. He is a champion and anyone who wears the India cap has India in their hearts far more than any online mob,” said former Test player Virender Sehwag.
“We support every person who represents Team India,” said batting legend Sachin Tendulkar. Shami “is a committed, world-class bowler. He had an off day like any other sportsperson can have.”
Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir, called on Indian players to reject the hate messages just as they had backed the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Your BLM knee-taking counts for nothing if you can’t stand up for your teammate who is being horribly abused and trolled,” Abdullah said on Twitter.
“Ignore the haters, most of India’s grateful for your effort,” said another supporter on Instagram.
People set off celebratory gunfire in the Pakistani cities of Islamabad and Karachi after the famous win, while hundreds ignited firecrackers in Indian Kashmir, where troops are fighting an insurgency.
Gautam Gambhir, a former India test cricketer who has become an MP for the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said it was “shameful” that people were celebrating Pakistan’s win.
And in Punjab state students from Kashmir said they were beaten up.
A student at a technology institute in Sangrur said dozens of men armed with hockey sticks and batons attacked them as they watched the closing stages of the game.
“They entered our room, switched off the lights and beat us. They destroyed our laptops,” the student told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears of more trouble.
“We are safe now and we have support from our college. But we didn’t expect this at all. We are Indians.”
The match also sparked violence in neighbouring Bangladesh. Two Pakistan supporters were beaten by India fans as they celebrated the win in one southern district, media reports said.
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