All not quiet on the eastern front

March 30, 2014

All not quiet on the eastern front

All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I, can relate in some paradoxical way to the fifth battle for the World Twenty20 taking place in what was once our eastern part. While Remarque’s narrative tells the distressing tale of war in the trenches that moves nowhere, the one being currently contested in Bangladesh has had its unsuspecting victims. Ireland and Zimbabwe have been knocked out by the Dutch and Bangladesh toppled by Hong Kong, a former English colony and now an extension of China. Who could have imagined this scenario when Clive Lloyd lifted the first World Cup Trophy in 1975 at Lord’s? Or could he have imagined that there was something wrong with the British citizens from the Caribbean waving the maroon colours of the West Indies and rejoicing wildly at the fall of every English wicket?

Indeed it can be said that a red flag has been raised by the Bangladeshis. It does not matter that it is a government directive; it is sad that it has raised its ugly head on a cricket field or for that matter any sporting field. So the locals cannot wave the flag of another country when their team is playing. Really? They mean Pakistan’s of course. Why hide behind innuendo? But then hey, they were once part of us.

The Bengalis have stirred a hornet’s nest. After the reintroduction of South Africa in the 1992 World Cup, it seemed all was good. Then came the boycott of the Sri Lanka-based games by Australia and West Indies in the 1996 World Cup followed by those in Zimbabwe in the 2003 tournament. There has been turmoil in ICC after that not least of which has occurred a few weeks back with the takeover by the three cricket barons, one of whom is now close to be handcuffed.

Talking further about the flag issue, it must be said that it’s quite silly really. You do not make a law that is not practical; that cannot be implemented. And why not? Imagine this:

  • Some reneging Bengalis ready to become martyrs bring in Bangladesh flags. Once in the ground, they open the bottom of the wood pole, take out the Pakistani flag and replace Bangladesh flag with the Pakistani flag. Imagine hundreds of them together in a stands waving to their hearts content.
  • Come dressed in red and green and yellow and orange. Once the match begins they turn their clothes inside out and reveal their green and white dresses. Again hundreds of them together.
  • Bring in blank cardboards and markers talking loudly of writing encouragement to Bangla players as the match progresses. Then paint them with the Pakistan flag and hoist them up en masse.

So will the ground security or the police be seen dragging down from the stands young boys and girls in full view of millions all over the world? And immediately risk appearance on mainstream channels across the world like CNN and BBC, and make the front pages of The New York Times and The Guardian?  Heck, even the Indian channels would play them out. The ICC would be vilified for allowing the ridiculous rule. Bangladesh would become the pariahs of democracy. And there can be no greater victory for the Jamaat-e-Islami there: their plight in the country of their birth getting international coverage. I’m sure the genius who came up with this plan will be given the Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona (Bangladesh Freedom Honour), the highest award that the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina posthumously conferred three years back on Indira Gandhi. Oh yes, there can be no better demonstration of the powers of The Big Three than this.

Okay here’s another scenario. Some Bangladeshi nationals ask their foreign friends who are in the ground today, like The Balmy Army, to lend them the Union Jacks; then wave them from the stands. Now imagine the gaping mouths at Westminster as the icon of the British empire is brought down in tatters by fat, stick-wielding cops chasing the young Bengalis while holding on to their belts.

Look, it’s been coming for a while. The Bangladeshis have been acting as boy scouts to the Indians, like the 96-pounder sparring in shorts in front of the town champion knowing the heavyweight is standing behind him. Poor soul has no idea that the world is laughing. They are not just doing their national pride harm, but also showing the Muslims as what the west wrongly portrays us: emotional and irrational when it comes to solving a divisive issue.

I’m sure that a trifle part of the directive is aimed at controlling what can become a brawl between spectators. For all we know, the local supporters of Pakistan may have bought tickets to today’s match in bulk. The Interior Ministry must be having a nervous breakdown at the horrible imagining of a firefight inside the stadium, maybe leading to abandonment of the game, fighting on the streets and total carnage in the city that can send teams rushing home by the morning flight. So much for hosting the cricket world.

But since this is really acceptance that there is a grave problem in the country, a better way would have been to issue a directive to the people of Bangladesh to allow choosing their sides. I mean looking at the record and standing Bangladesh have in international cricket, and the recent losses to Afghanistan and Hong Kong, the Bangladeshi fans should be coming to the stadium waving plain white flags from the first ball of the match.

Hopefully the PM will see the sense, and in fact statesmanship, in culling the directive through personal intervention, even if she had nodded her approval at its inception. Otherwise God save the Queen if the Union Jack is brought into it.

All not quiet on the eastern front