No Cheer for Cheerleaders!

Shahid Afridi finds them distracting, conservative cricket lovers deem them superfluous and unnecessary. Even the girls themselves are upset with the lecherous crowds. This is not the first time that cheerleaders are in action in a cricket match. They were also present during the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa. Nevertheless, the sudden vitriolic against them is surprising and a tad disturbing. When asked, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil said that the government couldn’t ban them due to a certain clause in their work permit. So the government cannot ban these ‘cheerleaders’ as a new law has to be made and certain sections will be offended. But the same government came up with a brand new law in order to ban dance bars and throw thousands of women into a life of poverty and uncertainty, and at that time, a new law had not been an issue. So much for morality and values!

Yet, none of that adds up to justify the demand for a ban on the gyrating lasses being made in different parts of the country, particularly loudly in Maharashtra. First things first. Supremely talented though he is, consistency has never been Afridi’s forte, so his being distracted cannot be bracketed with Tendulkar’s meticulous insistence on perfect order behind the bowler’s arm. As for the conservative follower of the ‘Gods or Flannelled Fools’, well since T20 tamasha – particularly the IPL (Indian Paisa League) – has turned the game on its head, he is best advised to stay away until a Test series is underway. The girls’ complaint is understandable, but since they knew they would be a novelty (why else would they be ‘imported’?), they ought to have been aware, or been made aware, that something of the kind was likely.

Take a look at modern Indian society and you will understand that there is something seriously wrong with it. Politicians cutting across party lines, left and right, have dubbed the cheerleaders degrading to women. Patil has been praised for shutting down dance bars, though most would shy away from commenting on the fate of the women rendered jobless. Netas from the breakaway faction of the Shiv Sena have gone public of their disapproval of ‘such voyeuristic and shameless’ acts. Maybe they would approve if 80 per cent of them were locals. What is equally surprising is that not just the conservatives and neo-conservatives, but even the Left has gone on record to denounce them. Morality as an absolute representation is something that most of these people seem to believe in.

Yet, where are these people when Bipasha Basu and Kareena Kapoor appear in bikinis in their films? Scenes depicting sexual intimacy between couples are becoming bolder with each new film. Advertisements of condoms and undergarments, to say a few, regularly show the so-called ‘vulgar’ acts, which are being aired on television to millions of audiences. Yet that cannot be dubbed vulgar by our politicians, as this is ‘artistic freedom’. Oh, just how long are we to endure such blatant hypocrisy and double-facedness? In India, morality is often subject to individual comfort and understanding, or in the case of politicians, to the monetary pressure/ benefit and political compulsions. And thus most of us, especially the current generation of youths, are victims of the most shameful neo-fascism, where one is subject to a subtle, yet persistent discrimination in our everyday lives based on such individual ideas on sex, morality and correctness. And this we learn from our politicians. This ‘cheerleaders’ controversy just reaffirms my belief.

Anupam Dhar

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