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Wikipedia restricts page of Indian cricketer who dropped catch against Pakistan amid torrent of abuse

India’s Arshdeep Singh dropped a catch in the closing stages of a tense India-Pakistan match at the Asia Cup in Dubai (AFP via Getty Images)
India’s Arshdeep Singh dropped a catch in the closing stages of a tense India-Pakistan match at the Asia Cup in Dubai (AFP via Getty Images)

Wikipedia has restricted the page of Indian cricketer Arshdeep Singh after users vandalised his page and linked him to a Sikh separatist movement for dropping a catch against rival Pakistan in a match.

The wrongful edits on Singh’s Wikipedia page were removed “within minutes” and editing access to the article was restricted to “trusted users” to prevent further vandalism, said a spokesperson for US-based nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, that operates the free online encyclopedia.

The 23-year-old Sikh bowler from India’s northern state of Punjab found himself facing severe, hate-filled criticism after he dropped a catch in the critical stages of a tense Asia Cup match between India-Pakistan on Sunday.

The frustration of cricket fans over a lost match with arch-rival Pakistan snowballed into a political controversy after Pakistan beat India by five wickets.

It prompted anger among several cricket fans who blamed Singh for the loss and dubbed him a “Khalistani”.

The term is used for a supporter of the Khalistan movement that seeks to carve out a separate country of the same name for Sikhs from Punjab.

Groups associated with it have been banned in India as separatism remains a sensitive topic in the country which is facing a decades-long rebellion in its contested northern Kashmir region.

This is not the first time a religious minority player was targeted by Indian fans and had his patriotism questioned in a match with Pakistan. Recently, Mohammed Shami, the lone Muslim in the Indian cricket team, was accused of deliberately underperforming in a T20 World Cup match against Pakistan.

Singh’s Wikipedia page was edited by an unregistered user who replaced the word “India” with “Khalistan” across the article and changed his name to “Major Arshdeep Singh Bajwa” – an apparent reference linking him to Pakistani army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.

It prompted India to summon Wikipedia’s executives to explain the false edits, according to government sources.

Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Monday slammed Wikipedia for allowing “deliberate efforts to incitement”.

“No intermediary operating in India can permit this type of misinformation [and] deliberate efforts to incitement [and] user harm – violates our govt’s expectations of safe and trusted internet,” he tweeted.

“Vandalism does occur on Wikipedia from time to time, as can occur in any open, online platform,” pointed out a Wikimedia spokesperson.

“It is a violation of the trust and good faith of our editors and readers, and runs contrary to the values on which Wikipedia is based.”

While Singh faced derogatory comments and anger from several people on social media users, the controversy led to several politicians, cricketers and celebrities offering their support to the young bowler.

“Stop criticising young @arshdeepsinghh. No one drop the catch purposely,” said former cricketer Harbhajan Singh, who said Pakistan’s match performance was better than India’s.

Arshdeep Singh delivers a ball during the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket Group A match between India and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai (AFP via Getty Images)
Arshdeep Singh delivers a ball during the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket Group A match between India and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai (AFP via Getty Images)

Former Indian captain Virat Kohli said “anyone can make mistakes” at a press conference after the match.

“It was a big game and the situation was very tight. I remember when I first played in the Champions Trophy, we had our first game against Pakistan and I played a really bad shot against Shahid Afridi,” Kohli recalled.

“I kept staring at the ceiling till 5 in the morning. I couldn’t sleep, I thought I won’t ever get a chance now and my career is over. So, all these things are quite natural,” he added.

India had won the first group match with Pakistan on 28 August but Pakistan swiftly exacted revenge clinching Sunday’s match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

The two still have to play Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. The top two teams will play the final on 11 September.