As many as 64 BJP Yuva Morcha (BJYM) workers were arrested after they tried to storm Eden Gardens stadium on Saturday, demanding the removal of pictures of Pakistani cricket players such as the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and former fast bowler Wasim Akram, said police sources.
As part of the protest which started at around 2 pm, around 100 BJP youth wing activists chanted anti-Pakistan slogans and carried posters and banners condemning the Pulwama terror attack in front of the stadium. When police asked the crowd to disperse, a scuffle broke out between them and the protesters, following which some of them were arrested. Kolkata Police sources said BJYM state president Raju Banerjee was among those arrested.
Ahead of LS polls, a chance for rhetoric
While most political parties in the state have responded to the Pulwama attack in varying degrees, the BJP has been the most vocal, hitting the streets with Indian flags and chanting anti-Pakistan slogans. This has caused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to accuse them of trying to fan communal disharmony. The issue of Khan’s picture hanging at Eden Gardens, while unlikely to have much impact on the larger picture, could provide an opportunity for both sides to step up their rhetoric ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
A large police contingent was deployed at the stadium throughout the day. BJP leaders said that they wanted to give a deputation to the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), but were not permitted to do so.
“We demand that the pictures of Imran Khan and Wasim Akram be immediately removed from the stadium. At a time when so many of our jawans are killed by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists in Pulwama, how can their pictures continue to hang in the stadium? People are angry and they have objected,” said Dilip Ghosh, BJP state president.
“Our agitation will continue until they remove the pictures. We will also give a deputation to CAB in this regard,” he added. When asked about the matter on the sidelines of a programme in Kolkata, CAB president and former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly said, “We are working on it. There will be a decision soon.”
He refused to comment on the BJP’s protest, saying, “I really don’t have anything to say.” Repeated calls to state Sports Minister Aroop Biswas went unanswered.
On Friday, the BJP had held a press conference telling the CAB to remove the pictures keeping in mind the sentiments of people.
After the Pulwama attack, the Karnataka State Cricket Association had removed pictures of Pakistani cricketers from M Chinnaswamy Stadium. The Cricket Club of India covered the picture of Imran Khan in Brabourne stadium in Mumbai. Pictures of some Pakistani players were also removed from stadiums in Mohali, Jaipur and Dharamshala.