Following Pakistan’s Champions Trophy victory, nobody celebrated more passionately than the Kashmiris.
In Srinagar, the air was filled with the sounds of firecrackers as victory processions went up and down the streets. A local journalist’s video of jubilant crowds was uploaded on Twitter by Pakistan’s Major General Asif Ghafoor, whose page identifies him as the official spokesman of the army. Thirteen hours after the post, it had received more than 13,000 likes and 6,000 retweets.
In some places, the celebrations led to violence. Witnesses said that security forces smashed vehicles and, in Fatehkadal and Sakidafar, dispersed crowds with tear gas.
In South Kashmir, Pulwama and Tral, a centre of militancy, saw victory marches that included anti-India slogans.
Authorities closed the gates to the NIT-Srinagar campus, which remained calm despite last year’s clashes following India’s loss to the West Indies during T20.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a separatist leader who generally avoids commentary on non-political matters, congratulated Pakistan on the victory. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a moderate separatist leader, was photographed celebrating outside his home and received 14,000 likes on Twitter for a post praising Pakistan’s victory. “Fireworks all around, feels like an early Eid here,” wrote Mirwaiz. “Better team took the day. Congratulations team #Pakistan”.
Mirwaiz’s comment was criticized by Indians such as cricketer Gautam Gambhir, who suggested he move to Pakistan.
“The anti-India sentiment is so strong this time,” said Mirwaiz in an interview. “It wasn’t like this even in the 1990s.”
Kashmiris have been rooting against India’s cricket team since at least 1983, when the West Indies beat India in the inaugural One Day International match at Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Stadium. When India lost to Australia at the same stadium in 1986, the crowd again rooted against them.
“It’s youth reacting to the way they are being portrayed,” said Mirwaiz. “For some time now, the genuine, indigenous struggle of Kashmiris has been seen as Pakistan-sponsored; everything is thought to be Pakistani here. So it’s a way of the youth getting back at the government.”
Mirwaiz defended the photographs of his public display of support. “A large procession reached my gate, and if I hadn’t come out, they would have stayed on all night.”
Another picture popular in the Valley was one of a spectator at the match in London’s Oval sporting T-shirt that read “Winner takes Kashmir”.
Some young people explained the euphoria as a reaction against the hyper nationalism on TV channels and the popular narrative of hatred against Kashmiris. “This is what people in India think of us,” said one young man in Srinagar. “So if we are bad, let’s be bad then.”
“If India lost to anybody Kashmir would have celebrated, but India losing against Pakistan doubles the celebrations,” said a local student.
Over the past decade India has dominated the cricketing rivalry and was the firm favourite going into Sunday’s final, making victory all the sweeter for Pakistanis.