Normal, Illinois, June 26, 2015 (Alochonaa) : Among the 1.25 billion, he is one a kind. He globetrots to cheer for the national cricket team. And when he does, he does it in his signature way – paints his body with the tricolors of the flag while tirelessly waves it from the gallery. He is Sudhir Gautam. Many dearly call him India’s No. 1 cricket fan as it turned out after he became the subject of a heated debate between Indian and Bangladeshi media.
As soon as the second one-day cricket match between India and Bangladesh ended on Sunday night, news of Sudhir coming under attack by a mob in Dhaka surfaced. A Hindi TV channel first reported it. Soon a slew of reports citing that TV news as a source poured in. The language of all media reports was somewhat the same: Sudhir was “attacked.”
What unfolded next is not hard to imagine.
Netizens in Bangladesh hit social media to offer a plethora of alternative accounts of the event. Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi media took this issue seriously, with journalists going on to talk to witnesses, police, and Sudhir in an attempt to figure out what really happened that night.
The scenario that night might look something like this: Sudhir was booed by a group of local supporters who were revelling in Bangladesh’s win against India. While some mocked him with a slogan that was popularized by an advertisement campaign made ahead of the last cricket world cup, his life might not have been threatened. Sudhir himself clarified it during a live television interview later. He, however, remained stuck to his previous claim that his taxi was pelted with stones – a claim that was contested by a photojournalist present nearby.
Yet, the Indian media joined the chorus that Sudhir was assaulted in Dhaka.
A quick perusal of the initial television report that set the precedence for the reports that followed next reveals that it was not Sudhir, rather the journalist himself who is heard saying, “he [Sudhir] narrowly saved his life with the aid of two policemen.”
No wonder where these brouhahas were originated from. It appears that the reporter had offered the narration of the incident the way he wanted it to have had happened. But it did not.
It is quite imaginable that Sudhir became nervous to have himself thronged by an exultant group of people who were carrying flagpoles, screaming; and yes, taunting him. But that does not automatically warrant an attack against him.
It appears a whimsically done report had raised the temperature both in the Bangladeshi and Indian media. Journalists, as their profession demands, are tasked with revealing the truth regardless of the event which may come as a surprise to them. An Indian cricket fan has been attacked by a Dhaka mob and the vice-versa is, quite understandably, a hot scoop. No matter how tempting it may sound, there is no room for pursuing that story without maintaining the minimum standard of journalistic norms and practices.
Cricket is among the few things that unites the two countries instantly. Despite the emotions involved, a healthy dose of professionalism should be maintained not only on the field but everywhere that cricket is associated. Let’s hope we all have taken that lesson from of the ‘Sudhir incident.’ Let’s hope the sanctity of the most favorite sport in the Subcontinent is protected.
*Arafat Kabir is a global and regional affairs commentator and analyst. Currently, he is pursuing a masters in political science at Illinois State University. His latest analysis: India Embraces Bangladesh to Keep China in Check was published by the Forbes Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @ArafatKabirUpol
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