Aiming to spread the message of communal harmony, peace and team spirit, the Ahmedabad Police will organise cricket tournaments in communally-sensitive areas in the old city ahead of Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra on July 1, a police officer said on Monday.
Teams participating in these matches will have members from Hindu and Muslim communities.
Two teams each with members of both the communities are being formed in the areas falling under the police stations along the route of the Rath Yatra, he said.
The 145th procession of the Rath Yatra will be taken out from the Lord Jagannath temple in the Jamalpur area of the old city on July 1.
"We are forming mixed teams of Hindu and Muslim players in the old city area under the limits of police stations that fall en route to the Yatra. We will organise tennis ball cricket tournaments in these areas," said the Joint Commissioner of Police (Sector 1), RV Asari.
The idea is to encourage members of both the communities to understand each other better and to instil the spirit of coordination and teamwork among them. We also want to spread the message of communal harmony and peace, he said.
"Sports is a means to bring people together," Asari said, adding that the sports grounds are being prepared and matches are likely to begin on June 18.
In the past, several communal riots had broken out during the Rath Yatra processions.
It seems the police are not willing to take any chances this year in view of the somewhat vitiated atmosphere following certain comments made against Prophet Mohammad.
Earlier this year, communal clashes had marred Ram Navami processions in some cities in Gujarat and also in other states.
The Ahmedabad Police is also organising blood donation camps in the areas falling under the Rath Yatra procession route and encouraging people from Hindu and Muslim communities to participate.
We intend to bring people together, spread the message of peace, and keep the Indian culture alive, Asari said.
He said police are also organising events such as painting camps for members of the two communities on themes such as 'communal harmony', besides awareness campaigns, mohalla and peace committee meetings.
Police are also trying to rope in youths and women to spread the message of peace, the officer said.
The 9-km Rath Yatra procession covers areas under the jurisdictions of police stations of Gaekwad Haveli, Khadia, Kalupur, Saher Kotda, Karanj, Shahpur, Madhupura, and Dariapur, and some most communally sensitive areas.
The Rath Yatra this year will be held on a huge scale after a gap of two years due to COVID-19 curbs.
In 2020, the Gujarat High Court had stayed the Rath Yatra.
In 2021, the state government allowed it with curbs amid the pandemic.