Uncertanity over the marque Twenty20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan at Dharamshala continues even after a meeting between BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.
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.
"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.
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 and 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 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," the Chief Minister said in an oblique reference to security arrangements for the match. When asked about Thakur's apprehension that if the match was match was cancelled, the ICC may not consider hosting any international games in Dharamshala, 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 the
Prime Minister 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.
Keep politics out of sports: Thakur
Meanwhile, commenting on the controversy Thakur reiterated sports should be kept out of politics. Thakur, who is also President of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), said he was ready to quit as HPCA president ,if it helped in the development of the state in any way.
"It is an international event and not a bilateral series and I will go to any extent to request anyone with folded hands in the interest of Himachal," he said while advising all stakeholders to rise above petty politics in the larger national interest.
"Even if the state is against HPCA, they should forget it for the time being. Court cases and inquiries are pending and I am ready to ready to step-down but please don't let Himachal suffer," Thakur pleaded.
Impressing that providing security is the responsibility of state government, Thakur asked "are we not capable to provide security to 15 players from Pakistan?"