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Planes carrying political messages fly over Headingley

Last updated on: July 07, 2019 01:40 IST

A plane with a banner flies over the match between India and Sri Lanka at Headingley, Leeds on Saturday

IMAGE: A plane with a banner flies over the match between India and Sri Lanka at Headingley, Leeds on Saturday. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters

Geopolitics resurfaced at the Cricket World Cup on Saturday when a plane towing a "Justice for Kashmir" message flew over Headingley during India's final group game against Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan innings was into its first hour when the plane moved over the stadium with the message.

A second message was towed across the venue, though it could not be ascertained if it was done by the same plane.

After a half an hour, a similar looking aircraft flew over the stadium with a different banner - 'India Stop Genicide, Free Kashmir'.

Midway into India''s run chase, a third aircraft was also seen with a banner -- ''Help End Mob Lynching''.

"This is completely unacceptable. We have written to the ICC, raising our concern about what happened in Headingley today. If this kind of incident is repeated in the semi-finals, it will be really unfortunate. Safety and security of our players is paramount,” a senior BCCI official, who is privy to the development told PTI.

Yorkshire, in the north of England, is known for having a sizable Pakistan population with Bradford being their ghetto.


"We are incredibly disappointed this has happened again," an International Cricket Council (ICC) spokesman said in a statement.

"We do not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. Throughout the tournament we have worked with local police forces around the country to prevent this type of protest occurring.

"After the previous incident we were assured by West Yorkshire Police there would not be repeat of this issue, so we are very dissatisfied it has happened again."

Nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence over Kashmir, which both claim in full but rule in part.

Last Saturday, a plane with "Justice for Balochistan" flew over the venue before Pakistan's match against Afghanistan, triggering scuffles among a section of the fans.

Balochistan is the largest province in Pakistan and borders Afghanistan to the north.

India beat Pakistan in Manchester en route to the semi-finals. Pakistan failed to reach the last four.

ICC's outgoing Chief Executive Dave Richardson accepted during a recent interaction that even if they have foolproof security, it can never really be enough.

Saturday's incident is an indication that local authorities did not do enough as the airspace is their domain.

The incident however leaves ICC on the edge since a more dangerous security breach is feared.