Irfan Pathan, the former India cricketer, is talking about racism. More specifically, he is talking about his experiences with racism in Indian domestic cricket; how players in teams from South India would get called names when they played in the West or North of the country. Or how teams or players from the East of India are referred in a way that suggests they come from another country.
“It is not good to call them by such names,” he tells Huffington Post in a phone interview. “But because [people] want to have fun, they do it. The awareness is not there. We have to be aware of it. When we go abroad we talk about people who are racist towards us, but then we do the same thing. In that case, what is the difference between us and them?”
Over the past six or seven months, Pathan has been vocal on social issues such as racism, especially on Twitter, where he has 5.1 million followers. “I want to create positivity and awareness. They both go hand in hand. If you are not aware of certain things, you cannot be positive about them. That is the reason that I have started speaking up.”
This makes him something of an outlier in Indian sport. Some countries, such as the United States, have a long history of athletes addressing racial and social issues. As the Black Lives Movement roils the USA, athletes from all sports, and of all colours, have spoken up in support of the movement.
In India, however, barring a few exceptions (such as Bishan Bedi), the good and great among the country’s sportsmen and women have a long history of staying quiet. Even as protests against the CAA spread across the country late last year, and riots broke out in Delhi in January, only a very small group of India’s athletes offered their views on what was happening in their own backyard.
Pathan was among those who waded into the toxic swamp of social media by drawing attention to the safety of students at Jamia Millia Islamia after the Delhi police entered the campus and clashed with...