STATING that the decision to shift the India-Pakistan World Cup T20 match to Kolkata, from Dharamsala, had been taken by the BCCI, Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Wednesday said the state government had never opposed the match or refused to provide security.
“The government’s stand on the cricket match was very clear. We had maintained that we were fully capable of providing security and maintaining law and order. I never ever said that the government couldn’t ensure security of the Pakistani players at the stadium or in Dharamsala. At the same time, I also made it clear that the government will respect the sentiments of the martyrs and ex-servicemen,” he said.
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He had earlier, however, announced that it would be better if the match was shifted elsewhere keeping in view the growing opposition. On Wednesday, the chief minister also dismissed suggestions that the state would face a “setback” by the shifting of the match. “What setback? There will be no loss to the state. There are eight or nine other matches slated at Dharamshala and the government has made arrangements. It is just this match that the martyrs’ families had raised concerns. We should not hurt their feelings,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the chief minister said the government had told the Centre, during the high-level meeting which was attended by DGP Sanjay Kumar and other officials, that no obstruction would be allowed if the Pakistan team arrives at Dharamsala. He, however, added that at the same time, the government was clear that no lathi-charge or any other action against the families of the martyrs or ex-servicemen if they protest . “Our officials did not say that the government will not provide security,” the chief minister said.
He rejected BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur’s charge that the state government was responsible for shifting of the match as it did not provide security or honour its commitment made in the High Court to fulfill its constitutional duty. “I am not answerable to Anurag Thakur,” Virbhadra said, adding that he had told Thakur to talk to the martyrs families.
There was, however, hope in Dharamsala that the match would go ahead. “While there are 10 matches slated for Dharamshala but the kind of enthusiasm and craze which spectators including locals have for a India-Pakistan match is unparalleled. Hoteliers will lose business worth lakhs and lot of cancellations were done on Wednesday,” said a senior HPCA official.