The Congress-led government in Himachal Pradesh has asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to either cancel the proposed India vs Pakistan ICC World Twenty20 match slated for 19 March at Dharamsala or shift the game elsewhere.
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"BCCI should either cancel or shift the match to other state to honour the sentiments of families of martyrs," HPCC president Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said.
Sukhu also demanded that 50 per cent income from the other eight matches scheduled to be played at Dharamsala be disbursed amongst the kin of those who lost their lives in successive wars against Pakistan or during anti-terror operations.
He said that Kangra is home to a large number of soldiers, including Kargil War heroes like Captain Vikram Batra and Captain Saurabh Kalia and a war memorial is located close to the Dharamsala stadium.
"Our party is not against holding other World Cup matches but only opposing the one against Pakistan as it would hurt the sentiments of the people, especially the families of martyrs," he said.
The Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh also wrote to the Home Ministry stating that the state government cannot provide security for the match.
Letter to PM Modi
The Himachal Pradesh ex-servicemen league, which has been opposing the match, has shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prevail upon the BCCI.
President of the league Vijay Singh Mankotia, in his letter to the prime minister, said that since the people are mourning the deaths of their brave soldiers, they would not 'relish' the slogans of 'Pakistan Zindabad' by Pakistani supporters during the match.
"When the Indo-Pak talks can be cancelled after the terror attack (Pathankot), why not the cricket match," Mankotia said, adding that over one lakh ex-servicemen would launch an agitation to prevent the Pakistani team from entering Dharamsala.
Mankotia said that close on the heels of the Pathankot attack, two more Himachali jawans were killed during an encounter in Pulwama.
BJP MPs join chorus
Notably, former chief minister and BJP MP Shanta Kumar and former BJP MLA Rakesh Pathania have also opposed the match.
"Himachal Pradesh is the land of brave soldiers, and two martyrs of the terror attack in Pathankot were from this area, and a memorial is located just a few metres from the cricket stadium where the match is to be played," Shanta Kumar said.
BCCI secretary hits back
"The venues of the World Cup matches were decided one year ago, the allotment of matches was decided six months ago. People all over have made bookings and it is not fair to give such statements at the last minute," BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur hit back at the Himachal Pradesh government.
"The Congress-led state government is clearly playing politics. Hundreds of Pakistani athletes were given security during the South Asian Games in Assam, why can't the Himachal government do the same?" Thakur said.
"By claiming that you cannot provide security, you are only giving credence to Pakistani claims that there is a security threat to their team in India. It's about the country's image, you cannot play politics over it," he added.