MUMBAI: Dozens of activists stormed the Mumbai offices of India’s cricket board yesterday to disrupt planned talks on resuming matches against Pakistan, the latest protest by hardline Hindu activists in the city. Around three dozen supporters of the Shiv Sena party barged into the headquarters of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and shouted anti-Pakistan slogans at its president, Shashank Manohar. “Ten people have been arrested and bailed,” Mumbai Police Deputy Commissioner Dhananjay Kulkarni told AFP, adding that an offence of “rioting” had been registered. He said 35 demonstrators had been involved in the morning protest.
The demonstrators demanded that Manohar cancel talks with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shahryar Khan that were planned in Mumbai yesterday. Khan had arrived in the city on Sunday to discuss the possibility of an India-Pakistan series, which is in doubt due to strained political relations. Khan is expected to meet other cricket officials in New Delhi today.
Zaheer Abbas, president of the sport’s world governing body the International Cricket Council, described the situation as “complex”. Abbas told television channels in Pakistan the two nations were due to play the first match in the World Twenty20 competition in India next March. “If there is so much fire in India and people are so against the series with Pakistan, then it will create difficulties for the World Twenty20,” the former Pakistani batsman said. Pakistani players, he said, might refuse to tour India because their lives could “be at risk”. In New Delhi, BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur condemned the office incursion. “If you want to protest, protest on the street but not at a office, home or residence,” he told reporters.
Thakur, a member of parliament from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had earlier ruled out resumption of cricket ties until political tensions ease. India and Pakistan have been bitter rivals since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 and have fought three wars. The arch-rivals have not played a Test match since Pakistan toured India in 2007.
Pakistan are due to host India for a full tour in the United Arab Emirates in December-one of six series the arch-rivals agreed to play between 2015 and 2023 under an agreement signed last year-pending New Delhi’s clearance. But relations have been strained, with continued border ceasefire violations from both sides, leading to the cancellation of a meeting between their security advisers in August. Yesterday’s protest came a week after Shiv Sena activists threw ink over the organiser of the launch in Mumbai of a book by a former Pakistani foreign minister.
The Shiv Sena, a junior partner in a ruling coalition with the BJP in the Maharashtra state government, opposes any dealings with Pakistan because of the 2008 terror attacks which India blamed on militants from across the border. Shiva Sena was earlier this month accused of using threats to force the cancellation of an appearance in Mumbai by Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali. — AFP