How A Cricket Match Turned Into A Witch Hunt

01/04/2015 8:14 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
MUMBAI, INDIA - DECEMBER 12: Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma poses for a picture during a visit to HT office for the promotion of her upcoming film PK on December 12, 2014 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Vijayanand Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

We are all cricket fans when India plays. We cheer, we gloat and we drink up. However, every now and then we seem to completely lose our perspective and our decency. The game becomes more than just a sport. We ridicule needlessly, engage in senseless verbal violence and, as in our most recent case, flaunt our misogyny. When Virat Kohli, India's projected saviour during its World Cup crisis, played that fatal shot and his girlfriend watched from the stands, a section of the frustrated Indian fan club was already making up their mind -- If India lost, Anushka Sharma was to blame.

Suspend logic -- because some fans don't have any. Many are stupid, petty and brainless misogynists -- most often men. So they make a girl watching a cricket match the object of their frustration when their team cannot perform. Instead of recognising the truth -- your team was just not good enough-- you pick on what's an easier target in a deeply patriarchal culture.

Why do they do that? And what possible connection can her presence have on the entire Indian team? By implication Anushka has so much power not just over Virat but the entire team. She can turn a team that breathes and sleeps cricket into a non-performing one. What are we pointing to? Her position as a film star? A girlfriend? Or her sexuality as a woman? Or perhaps her only fault is that she's a successful and glamorous public personality who may not be able to defend herself and is easy to target? Of course, when Virat was playing well we didn't give Anushka any credit.

What's unfolding here is the deeply misogynistic tendency deeply embedded within Indian society -- almost a throwback to Manu -- making the woman culpable for every failing in the heroic male. You would think we had gotten past that but obviously not. These mindsets continue to exist primarily in the large Indian male population. These are the same mindsets that think women can be attacked verbally or physically because they are in public spaces, or choose to chart public professions such as entertainment.

It may seem trite to men. After all, it's just a comment. Except it's not. Misogyny of this kind is no different from the lawyers in Nirbhaya's case who said that women have no business being outside the house after a certain time or with another man. If that shocked us, why doesn't this?

Some sections of the media also picked on Anushka. Why? Because it's important to feed the frenzy for TRPs. What can be a better story than to provide Indian fans with a beautiful, talented, outspoken woman to use as a punching bag for their anger and frustration?

The trash of Indian TV media loves to play up such misogynistic stories. A completely senseless news anchor, who on behalf of the nation pronounces charge, defence and judgment all in one go, led this charge. Why do they do this? Because news to them is Tamasha and TRPs for an audience that primarily consists of men?

It does, however, foster hate speech and misogyny amongst the population. Of course they are not the only ones guilty of this -- every other TV soap, politicians and so many of our religious leaders do the same and go unchallenged and unpunished.

A day later at a friend's house for dinner I met his 5-year-old boy who worships Virat and the India team. Naturally, everyone was discussing cricket. While eating his pre-party dinner the boy told me "Anushka made us lose the World Cup." Really? I asked. How did he know? "The TV said so," he told me wiping his mouth and beaming. Meanwhile, his father sitting by his side smiled and ruffled his hair indulgently. Wow! How well we are training our boys to be misogynists.

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