India-Pakistan tension at the Line of Control spilled over to the sporting arena on Tuesday, with Hockey India deciding to send back four Pakistani recruits of HIL franchise Mumbai Magicians following protests over the killing of Indian soldiers on the border.
After Shiv Sena protests in Mumbai forced the team to shift its training base to Delhi, Hockey India decided to play safe and send the team's Pakistani signings back.
"Fearing escalation of tension, Hockey India's Governing Council has taken the decision to send back the four Pakistani players in the Mumbai team," a top Hockey India official said.
The four players are Mahmood Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Muhammad Tousiq and Imran Butt. They are expected to take the flight home Tuesday evening.
The Pakistan Hockey Federation has been informed about the decision and circumstances under which it was taken.
The PHF has expressed understanding of the situation.
"The contracts of the four Pakistani players would remain valid and the payments would be made to them although they would not be playing in any of the matches," the official said.
There are nine players contracted to play in the five-team Hockey India League, which got underway on Monday.
"We will take a decision about the other Pakistani players depending on how the situation pans out. If we feel that there could be more trouble, we may have to take an appropriate decision," he said.
The league ran into rough weather after the killing of two Indian soldiers by the Pakistan Army on January 8 in the Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
Mumbai Magicians, based in Mumbai, became the obvious target because of its large number of Pakistani recruits and the presence of right-wing outfit Shiv Sena's stronghold on the city.
Over 100 Sena workers protested against the participation of Pakistani players in the Mumbai franchise and disrupted the scheduled practise session on Sunday. This prompted the team management to shift base to Delhi.
On the inaugural day, two supporters from Hindu Yuwak Sabha attempted to invade the turf at the National stadium, the venue of the opening match between Delhi Waveriders and Punjab Warriors.
The Mumbai team is scheduled to play its first match against Delhi on Wednesday.
Their first home match in the tournament is scheduled for January 20, against the Punjab team.
The other Pakistani players in the league are Mohammed Rizwan Jr, Mohammed Rizwan Sr (Delhi Wave Riders), Kashif Shah (Punjab Warriors), Muhammed Irfan and Shafqat Rasool (Ranchi Rhinos).