Tamil Nadu sports minister Udhayanidhi Stalin has led a chorus against the way Pakistan player Mohammad Rizwan was heckled with chants of “Jai Shri Ram” at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad as he walked back after his dismissal on Saturday.
“India is renowned for its sportsmanship and hospitality. However, the treatment meted out to Pakistan players at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad is unacceptable and a new low,” DMK leader Udhayanidhi commented on X on Sunday.
“Sports should be a unifying force between countries, fostering true brotherhood. Using it as a tool to spread hatred is condemnable.”
Udayanidhi, who had in September called for the eradication of Sanatana Dharma — he had later explained he was referring to caste discrimination — again became a focus of national discourse after his post.
Tamil Nadu BJP president K. Annamalai hit back, saying: “If he says sports should be sports, he should also see religion as religion. Why did he say Sanatan Dharma should be annihilated?”
He reminded Udayanidhi that the Pakistan team had been treated with respect everywhere in India during the ongoing World Cup.
“India has always accorded respect to Pakistan players. We all know how Chennai gave a standing ovation to Pakistan that won by 13 runs (actually 12 runs),” Annamalai told reporters on Sunday, referring to a Test in 1999.
“Pakistan has received a lot of respect in several places in India. Pakistan played two matches in Hyderabad: Pakistan received surprising support in both matches.”
Annamalai went on to defend the Ahmedabad crowd: “There were plenty of Indians who gave respect to Pakistan in Ahmedabad yesterday. ‘Jai Shri Ram’ was chanted when a Pakistani player walked past. I don’t see it as insulting Pakistan. They just chanted, that’s all.”
He added: “Everyone should see a game as a game. Emotions will be there at times.”
Comments from fans supporting and deriding the heckling of Rizwan sent #Sorry-Pakistan soaring on X trends, inviting further hawkish comments against those supporting the hashtag.
An X user, Bala, recalled that Rizwan had offered namaz during a drinks break during a T20 World Cup game against India in 2021.
“Maulana Rizwan got the treatment he deserves. Narendra Modi stadium. What a sight. Few years back Waqar Younis... said ‘Usne Hinduon ke beech mein khade ho ke Namaz padhi’ about Rizwan. Karma Hits hard really bad. JAI SHREE RAM,” Bala posted.
Some others sounded a call to fill the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai when Pakistan played Afghanistan on October 23 and South Africa on October 27, and show respect to all the teams.
“A call and request to all superfans and cricket followers of Chennai, Let’s be the best sporting crowd and fill up stadiums for the games ahead in Chepauk. Let’s give the respect to every team who plays here and appreciate good cricket,” WhistlePoduArmy-CSK Fan Club, a blue-ticked X page (hence a verified page), commented on Sunday.
An X user, Joy, posted a video clip of Chennai fans giving a standing ovation to Pakistani players after they defeated India in 1999, highlighting the contrast with what took place in Ahmedabad.
“1999. Chennai. Pakistan defeated India by 12 runs in a thrilling match. Everyone in Stadium, though heartbroken, gave them a Standing Ovation for the excellent Cricket they played. That’s how Civilised people behave. They don’t Chant religious slogans in Stadium to mock opponents,” Joy commented.
Several others slammed the Ahmedabad fans’ behaviour.
“Very bad. I do not approve of this behaviour of shouting JSR to Rizwan. Anyone who shows me evidence that you were there & doing this, I will cook you a 10 course meal with fine wine & counsel you on why I do not approve of this behaviour,” Abhijit Iyer-Mitra commented on X.
“It’s cricket for God sake! Few chants Jai Shri Ram when Rizwan is coming back after he got out, this is neither Bhakthi nor Sanskar! It’s just bigotry and it brings us international shame!” Vijay Thottathil posted.
Former Test cricketer Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, however, took offence at a post by senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai questioning the Ahmedabad fans’ behaviour.
Sardesai had commented on X: “Afternoon musing: in our park in the morning, we often say ‘Ram Ram’ as an affectionate greeting to each other. Why then use Jai Shri Ram as an aggressive chant to mock Pakistani players? Lord Ram is Maryada Purshottam: he must bring enlightenment, not evoke enmity. Agree?”