It’s deeply disappointing that emotions over the Cauvery issue in Tamil Nadu were allowed to turn against the city’s famous cricket team, forcing its home games out of Chennai. The city lost its sheen in letting lawlessness prevail, holding an entire metropolis to ransom. Further, it was a governmental failure that the head of its police force couldn’t offer a guarantee on player safety. This is nothing but acceptance of helplessness in the face of fringe groups pursuing an agenda of violence, even to the extent of throwing things at CSK’s Indian and international players and threatening to let loose snakes into the arena. The Chennai police would have known the seriousness of the protests against the non-formation of the Cauvery Management Board despite a Supreme Court order, and yet didn’t make one preventive arrest before the protest exploded on match day.
Chennai Super Kings players may be better off in being able to play in a calmer atmosphere in Pune and elsewhere. Sport is not unaccustomed to being dragged into politics. But it’s a reflection on society if sportsmen should fear about their safety, that too in their own land or city. IPL matches have been shifted out of scheduled venues earlier for various reasons, including a drought in Maharashtra and the Telangana agitation, but none was ever subject to blackmail like this, besides the kind of violence perpetrated on fans. A city that had picked up a reputation for balanced acknowledgement of sporting prowess as in giving a Pakistani team a standing ovation for winning a closely fought Test at Chepauk, was seen intimidating players by throwing things on to the ground. The debate had long been lost as politicians were found more than willing to drag sport into politics and use violence to leverage their importance.
The irony is that cricket, along with Bollywood films and their music, has been one of the great unifiers of India as a nation. The targeting of the nation’s most popular game may have become inevitable thanks to the feeling of injustice in Tamil Nadu over what seemed an acceptable way to settle the long-standing Cauvery river waters dispute. A stronger leadership in the state may have acted more firmly to douse the violence and secure a sporting venue from disruption. Cricket was seen as a soft target and the protesters got away with bullying it.
Film folk, including two major personalities in actor-turned politicians Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, have expressed solidarity with the Cauvery cause while also encouraging feelings to run high against IPL matches in Chennai.
Arguments like films continuing to run in theatres and government liquor shops doing roaring business don’t seem to cut much ice with those determined to declare victory for their protest. Sadly, Tamil Nadu has not emerged with much credit from this....