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Why Indians should boycott Qatar World Cup 2022

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oldfashioneddeshbhakt
oldfashioneddeshbhakt
Consultant by work profile. A patriot at heart. Apolitical, generally unless the topic is of national interest, Anti-Pakistan to my core.

Kolkata which I call home is filled with some of the most passionate football fans in India. The sport is practically a religion in this oversized urban ghetto. If you’re at a bar or high-end restaurant here, you’re more likely to be treated to an EPL game because football is way more popular than cricket.

There are currently 22 first-division teams competing in the local Calcutta Football League (CFL), arguably the oldest in the country. The city proudly played host to famous football legends such as Pele, Maradona and Messi on the occasions when they visited India. One of our local legends, Chuni Goswami captained India to a gold medal victory at the Asian Games in 1962. That was the time India used to be quite successful at this sport.

With the onset of World Cup season in Qatar, it should be fun and natural to tune in. This year the hype and excitement are huge not just in Kolkata but many other urban parts of India. There is a lot of demand for the quadrennial international event in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi, and Chandigarh.

Besides it is not every time Asia plays host to a FIFA World Cup tournament (the only time it happened before was during Japan-Korea 2002). Qatar’s Hamad International Airport in Doha is just a short flight away from anywhere in India. The country provides Indian passport-holders with a 30 day on-arrival visa. That is why a lot of Indian fans have made elaborate plans for an actual stadium visit. A football game only consumes around ninety minutes of your time: some sightseeing and mall-hopping in Doha could easily fit in with loyal support for your favorite team.

There is a woman from Kerala who made a solo road trip from her home state all the way to Qatar (I was wondering how that would be even possible without crisscrossing Pakistan). We are witnessing an unprecedented demand for private jets by Indian High net-worth individuals (presumably, Bollywood celebrities among them) as many of them are going to make the most of the tournament season. Reportedly these chartered planes cost north of INR 50 lakhs. And some people say India is poor!

If you can’t travel to Qatar, as a football-loving Indian you still might catch the FIFA 2022 action unfold on your television screen. What could go wrong with a sporting event, after all? India does enjoy robust albeit a bit strained diplomatic relations with Qatar (they are an important trading partner). Still not everything is what it appears to be. As a fan of football, I have to get this off my chest: something about Qatar 2022 does not feel right. I cannot muster enough enthusiasm to cheer for the upcoming debacle. I sincerely hope and pray that this entire tournament turns out a no-show; at least most Indians should stay away from this.

With former FIFA President Sepp Blatter admitting that awarding the World Cup to Qatar was a mistake, and a French satirical newspaper mocking the organizers with stirring accusations (borne of some truthful facts, at least), I feel emboldened to discuss why as Indians, participating and cheering for Qatar 2022 is against the interests of our country. Therefore, we should not only not watch this event but also vociferously support the trend #boycottqatar2022.

I am sure many other proud football-loving Indians are having these exact thoughts. To them I say, you’re not wrong in your beliefs. As a nation we should come out in full force and boycott this hateful spectacle. There are three big reasons why I believe this should be our unofficial stand.

1. Pakistani and Turkish security guards at FIFA 2022

Do you like the idea of Pakistani ex-military personnel checking your pockets and scanning your personal belongings? For me, this is the single biggest reason to boycott this year’s tournament. As an Indian, I simply don’t want anything to do with Pakistanis (my sincere apologies to the Aman ka Tamasha brigade but your utopian imaginings about Pakistan are far removed from reality).

An entire Pakistani army contingent has just left for Qatar 2022, comprising not just their veterans but also active-duty military personnel. These are the men Indian army are fighting with on a regular basis at our borders. While I understand these Pakistani military units are just mercenaries on hire by an oil-rich kingdom, I don’t feel very comfortable with the whole idea of encountering an enemy nation’s soldiers while trying to enjoy a vacation in Qatar.

Anyone who’s visited Dubai, Muscat or Doha knows that Pakistani ex-soldiers on hire are seen almost everywhere. They routinely work as mall security, embassy guards, and even bar bouncers (it’s quite the irony that Pakistanis will hate anyone who consumes alcohol but they still want the power trip to evict you from a booze joint). Anyway, it doesn’t matter what the Pakistanis choose not to drink. My problem is that voracious Indians fans trying to have a good time in Qatar will be routinely subjected to their authoritarian judgment.

You have to understand this clearly. Pakistanis are not our friends. With their active support of terrorist outfits, and calls for repeated interference in Kashmir, a sovereign matter of India, that nation is technically in a state of war with us although we don’t call it that way. How many Indians have forgotten and forgiven the Pakistanis for what happened on 26/11? I am someone who feels the joint Wagah border ceremony should be scrapped for good. There was a year we didn’t even exchange sweets with the Pakistanis (why can’t it happen all the time?)

As an Indian, I strongly feel that allowing myself or my belongings to be touched by a Pakistani soldier is akin to accepting their juvenile demands for recognition of the Kashmir problem as a bilateral dispute. They don’t have our best interests at heart. They hate the Hindus of India much more than we hate them in return. Who can forget Shahid Afridi’s asinine juvenile attempt at humor mocking the Indian custom of aarti. Now that is not a minority viewpoint in Pakistan. Many people in that country think exactly the way Shahid Afridi depicted himself in that video. They have a visceral hatred of Indians for who we are.

As a consultant, I sometimes come across Pakistani freelancers and other personnel. I actively choose not to cooperate with them. My experiences with these people have been mostly negative. While outwardly they appear polite and even friendly to Indians, the contempt they have for us because of our core beliefs as Indians is simply unmatched by anyone else in the world. For the sake of brevity, I don’t want to share my additional personal experiences here (I have encountered many Pakistanis when living in Europe long ago). But you have to believe me when I say that I could write a whole book on why Indians should never deal with Pakistanis abroad.

There is a strong Turkish military contingent in Qatar. Apparently, they are traveling without any active written agreements with the host country. Now I don’t know much about the Turks, but I do know they are close allies of Pakistan. And their country isn’t very well-known for human rights. The European Union has finally decided to never let them in their powerful bloc. I am pretty sure these Turks are going to take a lot of pride in harassing Indian visitors – next only to the Pakistanis.

India has a $3.4 trillion economy, and we send spaceships to Moon and Mars. We don’t need the Pakistanis at all. Therefore, we should refuse to travel to any country where we have to deal with Pakistanis on their terms.

2. Human Rights Violation in Qatar

So you won’t be travelling to Qatar but would catch the football action on the big screen? Here is why you shouldn’t do that either. Qatar has an abysmal record when it comes to human rights. Although many of us may feel that India is no paradise either, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But their shoddy record in human rights is a topic no one wants to discuss (when money talks!) While searching for old OpIndia news articles, I came across this masterpiece. It says that 29 unclean dogs were brutally gunned down by Qatari armed men (can we say, presumably a few Pakistanis?) As someone who works for dog shelters, this news shook me to my core. Dogs are loyal companions to you. No sane person would approve of this brutal manner in which the Qataris took care of their dog problem. Some first-world country, huh?

If you don’t care that much for our canine friends, at least you should for the human beings who have built the football stadiums in Qatar. Mostly people from the Indian subcontinent – Indians, Nepalis, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis (see I don’t hate the Pakistanis wanting to make a living abroad. I just don’t want to deal with them. There is a difference.) The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh was one of the first to raise concern about the slavery-like conditions in Qatar under which many Indian workers toiled day and night to build those magnificent buildings. Thousands of workers have reportedly died while working in 50 degrees centigrade heat. The stadiums have been effectively built on the corpses of these workers. It feels absolutely awkward for me to cheer for an event when I know that a lot of people died trying to make it happen.

Now workers die in construction projects all the time (which is tragic). But what I absolutely hate about Qatar and some other countries in the Middle East is their exploitative Kafala system of hiring workers. It’s a kind of modern-day indentured service. The employers and their agents basically seize the passport of their employees which is simply unacceptable in today’s world. My problem with the Gulf Sheikhs is that they never get called out for their disregard for human rights violations. Even the Indian government does not bat an eye although we should make it our stated position that any exploitation of Indian workers in the Gulf will not be tolerated.

Boycotting Qatar 2022 will send a strong message to Qatar and other Middle East countries’ despotic monarchs that their Kafala system is unacceptable to us Indians. They think the Western countries are “arrogant and racist” for calling them out for this blatant disregard of worker welfare. I hope they have something else to say to us Indians. Oh wait, they do!

3. Qatar’s Proxy Support for Terrorist Elements Abroad

Since no one calls out Qatar for their human rights violations and they have a lot of money to burn, this sneaky country gets the pass for their proxy support of radical Islamic terrorist groups. While countries like Pakistan frequently get into the FATF grey list (I hope they make it to the blacklist next time), Qatar simply absolves itself of any responsibility it has with respect to terror financing. Do they really think that having a US military airbase on their territory gives them the pass?

This country actually “flirts with terrorists on a daily basis.” They have organizations inside the country that pump millions of dollars to spread the ideology of Wahhabi supremacism abroad. Some of their citizens support terror modules in poor and deprived regions of India. There are organizations in Qatar that are quite close to outfits like Al-Qaeda and PFI (but they will deny it, of course).

To what extent are these terror modules impacting India remains a big question mark. That is for our intelligence agencies to gather. As long as Qatar does not dissociate itself actively from these groups, it is not a country worth trusting by any Indian.

The irony is that these Qataris were at the forefront of defaming India over the Nupur Sharma fiasco. I need not support whatever Nupur Sharma said (and based on what I saw in the television debate, it seems she was coaxed and pressurized to say those thing that snowballed into such a controversy).

What I don’t support is any citizen of India having to watch his mouth or hold back on their views just because some oil-rich despots in the Gulf don’t like it. They may have the money, but this is our country, and we can democratically discuss whatever we want within our borders. Qatar or any other country in the Middle East does not have the right to dictate to even a single Indian what our views should be.

Summary

Whether or not you wish to watch or attend the Qatar World Cup spectacle, as an Indian I support your right to do as you please. But considering the horrible background of this country and this inauspicious tournament that will take center-stage soon, I would make a humble appeal to every football-loving Indian (the good thing is we are a very tiny minority for the nation as a whole) to boycott the celebrations.

Do not purchase any FIFA 2022 regalia including T-shirts, and do not give the advertisers any revenue by the minutes you spend in watching this tournament.

I love football. Once this Qatar fiasco is over, I’ll get back to watching my favorite games with even greater enthusiasm.

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oldfashioneddeshbhakt
oldfashioneddeshbhakt
Consultant by work profile. A patriot at heart. Apolitical, generally unless the topic is of national interest, Anti-Pakistan to my core.
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