Dharamsala: Uncertainty over the marquee World Twenty20 match between India and Pakistan at Dharamsala continues, even after a meeting between Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary Anurag Thakur and Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh. (World Twenty20: Board of Control for Cricket in India in a Fix As Himachal Pradesh Doesn’t Want to Host India-Pakistan Game)
The chief minister reportedly told the BCCI secretary to sort out the matter with the families of martyrs and ex-servicemen in Kangra, who are up in arms against the March 19 match and consider it as an ‘insult’ to the martyrs who lost their lives in Pathankot airbase attack. (World Twenty20: Don’t Play Against India in Dharamsala, Ehsan Mani Tells Pakistan Cricket Board)
“The Government respects the feelings of families of martyrs and ex-servicemen and cannot resort to use of force against them,” chief minister Virbhadra was reported to have told Thakur. (World Twenty20 Director Satisfied With Arrangements at Dharamsala)
However, Thakur told the chief minister that the match was fixed long ago and in case it was cancelled, it would not be in the interest of the state and pleaded for hosting it as scheduled.
The chief minister has put the ball in the court of BCCI. “The public opinion is against the match, our ex-servicemen are respected people and it would be appropriate for the BCCI to talk to the ex-servicemen,” Virbhadra said.
“The government had been providing security for the matches but this time, the families of martyrs and ex-servicemen are opposing it. They had gathered at the Shaheed Samarak in Dharamsala and taken a pledge against holding the match.
“We are not stopping the match, but the government cannot use guns, lathis and tear gas against the families of the martyrs and the ex-servicemen.”
When asked about Thakur’s apprehension that if the match was cancelled, the International Cricket Council (ICC) may not consider hosting any international games in Dharamsala, the chief minister said: “I am concerned with the situation in my state.”
Earlier, going by local sentiment, Virbhadra had written a letter to the home ministry that the match may turn out to be a security issue.
Senior-most BJP leader in the state and Kangra Lok Sabha MP, Shanta Kumar too had conveyed the same feeling to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a separate letter, asking the centre to cancel the match.
The state president of ex-servicemen and former Congress minister Vijai Singh Mankotia said the question was of sentiments of the families of martyrs and ex-servicemen.
“We are not against sports, but the public sentiment especially when there have been martyrs very recently from the same area where the Indo-Pak match is being held, the issue becomes different,” he said.