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In the Name of Cauvery or in the Name of CSK, Don’t Do this to Us!

Violence, both on and off the field, has been always a blemish on the sanctity of cricket as a gentleman’s game. From blatant racism to savage personal rivalry, there have been moments in the history of cricket which proved it is not a game of gentlemen always. Often, spectators join the bandwagon of shame by taking things into their own hands. This time, the vociferous violent acts carried out on the Chennai Super Kings fans outside Chennai's Chepauk stadium stand out and should be condemned, for reasons transcending sports.

The unfortunate incidents started unfolding when several protesters from various political parties and some members of the film fraternity protested at Anna Salai and the Chennai arterial road. These protesters were removed by the police. One of the protesters threw a pair of shoes into the stadium where Chennai Super Kings was taking on Kolkata Knight Riders in its first home game of the IPL season.

Things worsened when Chennai Super Kings fans were assaulted by a group of protesters outside the stadium. According to reports, the protesters forcefully removed the CSK jerseys of the fans! Even though the match went on relatively uninterrupted after the disturbing event, the pattern of violent events raised some key questions about the strategy and tactics of a mass protest.

The core issue behind the mass protests that has been burning in the Tamil Nadu public sphere for the last few days is the central government’s delay in the formation of the Cauvery Management Board to implement the recent verdict of the Supreme Court on the sharing of river waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. In a recent verdict, even the Supreme Court reprimanded the centre for ignoring its orders on setting up a regulatory body that would monitor the release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu.

However, the above incidents of mob violence and attacks follow a clear pattern of channelising the angst against the central government into an event which has relatively high news value and literally nothing to do with the water dispute. For many fans, CSK is more than just a franchise bearing Chennai’s name, but an emotion - the team has one of the most passionate fan armies in India, fondly referred to as the Whistle Podu army.

Such emotional connections always accompany the game of cricket and the cricket history has many instances of such fire turned into a political statement with a positive turn. Like Superstar Rajinikanth said, Chennai Super Kings players and supporters could have turned up wearing black badges to send a strong message to the centre about the dissent of the Tamil people. But, unleashing violence and taking things into their own hands hints at political propaganda in action.

Such political gimmicks also send a wrong message to the centre as it as it is represented as a law and order issue, marring the farmers’ distress issue. While the open opportunity of reinventing a mega entertainment event into a platform for constructive protest and thereby call for the attention of the nation was there, efforts to kill the spirit of a game and insult the dignity of thousands of CSK fans is highly condemnable. The arguments like the IPL matches should not be conducted in Chennai as it would distract young men from the ongoing struggle also cancels itself because an IPL match was the best platform for staging a protest because the event reaches hundreds of thousands of households across the nation.

If the spirit of Chennaikars could unite them as a yellow sea and roar for a team that they believe their own, it is illogical to argue that the same will deflect them from a common cause of the entire state. Cricket always has all the elements of a mega drama, with fallen angels, resurrections, heroes, victims, and villains. Not often is it dragged into the political power play with which it has nothing to do.

The perpetrators and their leaders are well aware of the fact that neither CSK nor the IPL bosses frame the centre’s policies regarding the long-standing water dispute. Killing the spirit of the game by channelising the wrath of people may help some hidden political agenda, but will never help the actual cause of hundreds of farmers in distress. But, the key question remains to be answered, who does fall victim to this reign of wrath, CSK? CSK fans? Or the farmers?

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