New Delhi: The exciting India vs Pakistan clash during the World Cup literally brought the world to a standstill. The fiercest of rivalries between these two countries to compete against each other in sport naturally creates a perfect storm for hype, anticipation and mudslinging. Remember the famous Mauka mauka ad that poked fun at Pakistan's poor record against India in the previous World Cup editions that seems to have offended our neighbours.
Cricket is a religion in India but when it comes to India vs Pakistan match, it is not just the matter of winning. Here self-esteem plays the major role among the fans of both the countries. Moreover if it is a World Cup match, emotions are much higher.
However, the copious amount of stereotyping that happens during the clashes is not limited to seniors alone. A study by Delhi-based Early Childhood Association (ECA) on how early the "seeds of racism are sown in young children" suggests that some of the statements parents make while watching the game seem to reinforce stereotypical notions of Pakistan being "India's enemy" in their children.
A report published in Times of India said the day after the India-Pakistan World Cup 2015 match was telecast on February 15, when ECA researchers talked to children about who played, who won, and then went on to discuss Pakistan and Pakistanis, most of the children described to researchers how their fathers passionately supported India during the match.
"When we continued to talk to them a good number of them seemed to relate the word Pakistan with 'terrorist'. Around 25 per cent thought that all Muslims were Pakistanis and a number of them said their parents also told them that Pakistan fights with India," says Swati Popat Vats, director of ECA, an NGO which works towards holistic education for children.
According to the survey results, what parents say definitely influences children to a great extent - like with the case of the cricket match where children began associating the match between the two countries as more of a clash of cultures and religions than a sport.
With 7000 children from Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai in the age group of 2 to 6 years as sample of study, most of them answered that Pakistan fights with India when asked about if India fights with Pakistan. “That was what their father told them,” Vats said.
“As a sociologist and educationist, this kind of prejudice is worrisome because as humans we will have our bias but our biases should not be ingrained or learnt so early. The study shows that the biases these children have are learnt from others, which means that they will never be able to use their judgment to form opinions. This can lead to an intolerant society and will create more and more problems for our children and us," she said.
Experts say the issue of the bias depends largely on the sociological background of the families. “Everyone knows a bit about Pakistan and India. Most often young children borrow others memories, borrow from stories told to them,” said social scientist Shiv Visvanathan.
“As children we have so often formed cricket teams for play that had a mix of "Indian" and "Pakistani" players on each side. One needs to take it all in context. Is it just competitiveness in cricket that brings out the prejudice or does that percolate to the two countries playing against each other in any other sport?" he added.
The survey, which was conducted among children belonging to middleclass and upper middleclass families, also found that 92 per cent of the children had a tendency to form clicks and groups that reflected the clicks and groups of their parents.
The survey was conducted between December of last year and March, in association with the Podar Institute of Education. Several methods were adopted like - through pictures and toys, discussions (as with the cricket match), and question and answer sessions.