Keep politics away, says Thakur; others oppose Pakistan tie in HP

Shimla, March 2 (IANS) Indian cricket board secretary Anurag Thakur said on Wednesday that politics should be kept away from sports, but Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh reiterated his concern over “security” as opinion of families of martyred soldiers in the state is against holding the India-Pakistan World Twenty20 tie at Dharamsala.

“It’s a world event and not a bilateral series,” Thakur, who is also the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association president and a Bharatiya Janata Party parliamentarian from the state, told reporters here.

State leaders from both the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are united in their opposition to the Super 10 Group 2 match between India and Pakistan being hosted at Dharamsala on March 19, keeping in mind the local sentiments against Pakistan.

“I will go to any extent to request anyone with folded hands in the interest of Himachal Pradesh,” Thakur said, seemingly making it an issue between him and others. He called upon all stakeholders to rise above petty politics in the interest of the nation and not to oppose the match at Dharamsala.

“Even if they are against the HPCA, they should forget it for the time being. Court cases are pending, inquiries are pending, I’m ready to step down, but please don’t let the state suffer,” Thakur said.

He was here for launch of the ‘Swachh Himachal — Padhai bhi, safai bhi” state-level campaign initiated by the HPCA.

However, state leaders from both the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP were steadfast in opposing the India-Pakistan match scheduled to be held at Dharamsala.

While Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has in a letter to union Home Minister Rajnath Singh asserted that the state government will not be able to provide security during the game, former chief minister and BJP leader Shanta Kumar in his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the match should not be allowed at Dharamsala in Kangra district as it is home to hundreds of valiant jawans, martyrs and ex-servicemen.

“We have informed the government of India on the security issues during the India and Pakistan match,” Virbhadra Singh had told reporters in Shimla.

The chief minister was categorically clear in saying that “if the HPCA is keen on the match, it can hold it at its own risk”.

Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Thakur, however, said providing security is the responsibility of state government.

“Are we not able to provide security to 15 players from Pakistan,” he said.

He said a large number of people have booked air and rail tickets, taxis and hotels, and cancellation of match between India and Pakistan would create problems for them.

Thakur warned that the cancellation of the match would also result in the International Cricket Council (ICC) imposing a ban on Himachal Pradesh from hosting international matches for a long duration.

Those opposing the match today were at the forefront in receiving and welcoming Pakistan team in 2005 after the Kargil War, he asserted.

Thakur, who met Virbhadra Singh on Wednesday over the India-Pakistan World T20 tie, and is learnt to have informed the chief minister that the match was fixed long ago and that it would not be in the interest of the state if it is called off.

The chief minister purportedly asked Thakur to sort out the issue with the families of the martyrs and ex-servicemen, who have strongly opposed it.

“The public opinion is against the match. Our ex-servicemen are respected people. It would be fair for the BCCI to talk to the ex-servicemen first,” the chief minister told reporters.

“We are not stopping the match and will provide the security during the match. But the government cannot use guns and lathis or batons against the families of the martyrs and the ex-servicemen. We cannot push them and use tear gas on them,” the chief minister said, indirectly hinting at it as a security issue.

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