An Indian hardliner group has threatened to dig up the pitch of a cricket stadium in Dharamsala where Pakistan and India are scheduled to play in their upcoming World T20 fixture on March 19.
According to NDTV, the All India Anti-Terrorist Front, which is led by former minister Maninderjeet Singh Bitta, has warned the group would dig the pitch of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association to protest Pakistan’s participation.
The extremist group, which has in the past called for declaring Pakistan a terrorist state, demanded that the Pakistani cricket team not be allowed to play in the World T20 match against India.
“If the Pakistan team comes to Dharamsala to play against the Indian cricket team, we will dig up the pitch in the HPCA stadium,” said Virender Shandilya, the Anti-Terrorist Front’s national president.
“There is high risk that Pakistani terrorists can enter the area during the match and if the Himachal Pradesh government allows the tie, it will be tantamount to disrespecting the martyrs of Pathankot and Pampore,” he said. “We will protest against this match in a big way in the coming days.”
Shandilya added he had written letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh and would also meet Himachal Pardesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and leader of opposition PK Dhumal.
The state authorities have already refused to provide security to the Pakistani team, suggesting the match should be moved from Dharamsala to another venue or be cancelled out of respect for the martyrs of the Pathankot attack in neighbouring Punjab.
Pakistan will kick off their World T20 campaign in Kolkata before they travel to Dharamsala for the encounter with India. The World T20 will take place from March 8 to April 3 where 10 countries will participate.
A day earlier, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said central paramilitary forces would be provided to ensure security at the March 19 match amidst uncertainty.
Indian radical groups have often called for breaking off cricketing ties with Pakistan.
In 1999, protesters from Hindu extremist group Shiv Sena had dug up the pitch in New Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium to protest a tour by Pakistan, though the game was unaffected.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2016.
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