27/04/2016 2:58 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

Why Local Cricket Teams Are Named After Militants In Strife-Torn South Kashmir

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High angle view of cricket bats

Roughly a couple of weeks ago, Jammu and Kashmir found itself in the eye of a political debate following clashes between police and non-Kashmiri students at NIT Srinagar. The region and its residents immediately started attracting sermons on nationalism and patriotism from people not completely aware of or empathetic to the political realities and conflicts of the valley. Soon after, it was alleged that an Army jawan had molested a teenage girl in Handwara. The Army countered the claim by saying local boys had been harassing a girl. Protests erupted yet again, leading to the deaths of two Kashmiri youth and bringing to light the fragility of 'peace' in Kashmir.

Also Read: How A Cricket Match Had A Kashmiri Tech Institute Boil In Protests

And now, digging deeper into the conflicts that make up Jammu and Kashmir, The Indian Express has reported how deep resentment against the state runs in the valley. Last Sunday, a cricket tournament concluded in Tral. However, it may not strike as any ordinary tournament to many. The tournament was organised in the memory of Khalid Muzaffar Wani, brother of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a Huzbul Mujahideen commander. Khalid died last year when he had gone to meet his brother in the forests of Pulawama in Kashmir. The report says that the Army labelled the death as an encounter killing, saying Khalid was a militant, like his brother.

However, like the cricket match instituted to commemorate Khalid shows, a majority of the valley is not willing to buy the Army's explanation. In fact, not just Khalid, teams competing in the tournament are named after several other terror suspects, including, Burhan, the Hizbul commander.

"Burhan Lions, Aabid Khan Qalandars and Khalid Aryans. These three local cricket teams, which played in a tournament that concluded Sunday in Tral, share more than just a love for the sport — they are all named after alleged militants," reports The Indian Express.

"Burhan, the inspiration behind Burhan Lions, is known in the area as a cricket-loving boy next door and the son of a local headmaster who left home to join the Hizbul Mujahideen in 2010. He is now the most famous face of militancy in Kashmir," the report further adds.

The report also says that 'pro-freedom' songs were played during the opening ceremony of the tournament. When it concluded, Muzaffar Ahmad Wani, father of Burhan and Khalid, was invited as the chief guest and handed over the trophy to the team named after his younger son. Reportedly, nearly 1,000 people who had gathered in the stadium cheered.

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