Himachal Pradesh government, on Wednesday, relented marginally on its stand against the eagerly awaited India Pakistan T20 World Cup match at Dharamshala after BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur met Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and asked for the government’s support in holding the scheduled match on March 19. This has raised some hopes for the cricket fans .
What’s significant in Wednesday’s meeting was fact that at least five congress MLAs, including Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma –all hailing from Kangra district, were with Chief Minister when BCCI secretary is also three time BJP MP from Hamirpur met him at his Vidhan Sabha office. Besides Sharma, they included Sanjay Rattan, Ajay Mahajan, Yadvinder Goma and independent MLA Manohar Dhiman
Barring transport minister G S Bali, a Kangra leader who is firm on his stand to oppose the match, the rest seem to favour the match if the martyrs’ families also relent to Thakur’s move. Virbhadra, only a day before, had written letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh conveying that the match can’t be held at Dharamshala since it involved deep sentiments of hundreds of ex-servicemen and families of two Pathankot airbase attack martyrs, who hail from the area .
After meeting Thakur, the chief Minister said: “I told him that the government was fully competent to provide necessary security to the players, but he should go and talk to the families of martyrs and ex-servicemen body. If they have no problem and agree not to oppose the match, the government will not have any issue. Ball is in Anurag Thakur’s court,” he added.
He also stated: “It has been made clear to Anurag Thakur that I will not use my force (police) to push and disperse the families and ex-servicemen if they choose to protest at Dharamshala on the day when the match is held. The families have taken a vow at Shaheed Samarak – located barely a few meters away from the stadium, not to let the match be held. So, I don’t want any confrontation, thus I have advised Anurag to reach-out to the families first or rather, it should have been done much before to avoid such a situation today.”
Asked if the BCCI secretary informed him about the consequences the State will suffer if the match is not allowed, Virbhadra said “ that’s for the BCCI or HPCA to see.” “The government will do its job. We are not opposed to the cricket ,rather we will welcome foreign players .Issue is limited to the Pakistan team playing at Dharamshala,which the families of the martyrs don’t want,” he added.
He admitted that Thakur has assured that since with was a world cup match and preparation for this started an year back. In furture,no bilateral match will be held at Dharamshala with Pakistan till it continued to support terrorism. When asked about his stand, Sudhir Sharma,who represents Dharamshala said he has welcomed Chief Minister’s move asking Thakur to first meet martyrs families and settle issue with them. “ I admit people want world cup matches to be held but because of sentiments of ex-servicemen and martyrs’ kins—who have opposed Pakistan , the government fears law and order situation..Let’s hope some solution is found before March 19 as lot of preparations have gone down to hold matches”
The match has run into serious troubles following threat by Ex-services League– a representative body of ex-servicesmen ,and families of two Pathankot airbase attack martyrs,who hails from the area and have threatened not to allow Pakistan team to enter Dharamshala town.
Anticipating controversies and mass protests, Thakur, who was in the town, met the Chief Minister and explained him the circumstances under which he had 10 World Cup matches sanctioned for Himachal Pradesh, and one of these will be Pakistan-India match. He explained that if the match was called off or not allowed to be held, Himachal Pradesh will be slapped with a ban for holding any World Cup matches
Thakur adamant on schedule
Thakur, meanwhile, ruled out the possibility of any change in the venue. He asked the state government and people to shun their hostility against. Interacting with media after launching Swacch Him0achal campaign, Thakur even offered to quit his post as HPCA president, if it in anyway was a hurdle in holding the match at Dharamshala, which is his brain-child and also categories as one of the world’s best cricket stadiums. “ I can go to any extent to see that Himachal Pradesh did not get a blot for its inability to hold a match .The match was allotted to the state under pressures from ICC ,which made the Pakistan Cricket body to agree for playing in India. By not allowing the match,we will only vindicate Pakistan’s stand that India was hostile to the team. Let use be hospital ,which is character of Himachal Pradesh not hostile”, he said replying to mediaperson.
He feared that the ICC will cancel all T-20 matches slated for Dharamshala and will also blacklist HPCA and state for future matches . Anurag said he will be requesting everyone with folded hands ,also to the families of the martyrs and the government to let the match me held at Dharamshala and see how much gains state makes in terms of its prestige and tourism ,when 230 countries watch the match.
He said the meeting was held in a cordial atomosphere: “Chief Minister also feels that matches should be held and state government was competent to provide security. It’s in the interest of the state and country to host this particular match. We have lot of respect for the soldiers and martyrs and ex-servicemen.” Thakur said he has assured him that HPCA will not host any bilateral match with Pakistan till the condition at the borders improves and Pakistan creates an atmosphere of goodwill.