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Honestly. Can this be real?

A criminal case was filed in a court on Thursday accusing Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh with ‘hurting’ fans by staying away from the Padma awards function.

Dhoni and Bhajji were to be honoured with the Padma Shree by President Pratibha Patil in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Senior advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha filed the case in the court of the CJM Ramdarash seeking to book the cricketers under sections 499 (defamation), 500 (punishment for defamation), 503 (criminal intimidation) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace).

Ojha alleged that the two cricketers insulted fans and dishonoured the prestigious award by staying away from the function.

The comment section is depressing to read. This one, by someone called Kapil Sapre, is probably my favourite:

This is not insult of fans but this is insult of our Honourable President who honours the celebrities with such awards. It is also insult of our nation. Showing such attitude those have made our country to fall on face at international level. No celebritiy henceforth should be allowed to do so and to prevent this those should be fined in terms of money like 25 crores as they also earn that much and imprisonment for at least 3 years. There should be no case and nothing direct punishment. Why because such people are idols of rising youth. If they do so, youth will also tend to do so.

(Hat Tip: Aristotle the Geek)

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The poor umpiring and Harbhajan Singh’s three match ban for alleged racist remarks to Andrew Symonds have marred what was otherwise an excellent test match.

Even if it is true that Bhajji is guilty (which does not seem to have been unambiguously proved) I feel that the three match ban is unreasonably harsh. Harbhajan is alleged to have retaliated against Aussie taunts by calling Symonds a ‘monkey’. It would be a laughing matter except that the Aussies didn’t think so. The remark was interpreted as a racist slur, a complaint was made and the sentence subsequently passed by the match referee.

I believe that sledging is a part of the game and players should be allowed to say whatever they wish as long as they don’t get physical. And that includes racially motivated remarks. Test cricket is a contest for grown ups, not a stage for mollycoddling the thin-skinned. Cricketers who cannot deal with verbal attacks on the field should consider other careers.

However, even those who do not agree with me that sledging should go unpunished will perhaps concur that a bit of balance is in order. The trouble is that racism is such a politically sensitive issue that we tend to lose perspective when discussing it. In my opinion, the current scenario, where a pernicious comment to another player about his family, personal life or non-racial physical characteristics receives no more than a routine reprimand whereas the simple act of calling another cricketer a ‘monkey’ in the heat of the moment is punished with a three test-match ban, is a good example of this lack of perspective.

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