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Demanding return of ‘sacred’ sword from England, Kolhapur youth barge into Gahunje stadium, stage protest

No damage was caused to the ground or the pitch, police and officials of the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) said.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune |
Updated: March 17, 2021 12:36:35 am
Kolhapur youth barge into Pune's Gahunje stadium, protest against England teamFive people from Kolhapur have been arrested for illegally entering and staging a protest at Pune’s Gahunje stadium, which is set to host three one-day international cricket matches between India and England next week. (File photo)

Five people from Kolhapur have been arrested after they made an unauthorised entry into Pune’s Gahunje stadium — which is due to host three one-day international cricket matches between India and England next week — and staged a protest against the England team. No damage was caused to the ground or the pitch, said police and officials of the Maharashtra Cricket Association.

“The incident took place around 5 pm on Monday. Talegaon police said all five had been arrested and remanded to police custody for four days by a local court. “As soon as we got the information that five people have entered the stadium, we sent a team and took them in custody,” police inspector Shahaji Pawar told The Indian Express. He said the youth belonged to an organisation called Shivdurg Savhardhan.

Kolhapur youth barge into Pune's Gahunje stadium, protest against England team India and England are set to play three one-day international matches on March 23, 26 and 28. No spectators would be allowed inside the stadium due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Pune.  (File photo)

Police said the youth wanted to publicise their demand to bring back the “sacred Jagdamba sword” of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj from England. They told the police that the sword was forcibly handed over to the Prince of Wales when he had come to India in 1875-76. The youth raised slogans like “England team go back” and unfurled a saffron flag at the ground.

The arrested youth have been identified as Harshal Surve, Pradeep Hande, Ashish Ashtekar, Devendra Sawant and Vijay Darwan, all from Kolhapur. They been arrested on charges under Section 143, 452, 506 (1), 188 and 269 of the Indian Penal Code, as well as under the Disaster Management Act.

Maharashtra Cricket Association president Vikas Kakatkar told The Indian Express that security had been stepped up at the stadium after the incident. “There were two security personnel at the gates when these people came with lathis and sought permission to hold a protest. The security personnel were frightened and allowed them to go in,” he said.

Kakatkar said there was no damage caused to the ground. “And there was no question of any damage to the pitch as even I can’t enter that area,” he said.

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Asked why there weren’t enough security personnel at the stadium to prevent an incident like this, Kakatkar said, “Police security comes only about three days before the match. In this case, we will get police security from March 20. We have posted 14 security personnel at the stadium now. They are deployed on all sides of the stadium. We are also requisitioning the services of security personnel much before the matches. At least 100 of them will guard the stadium,” he said.

Kakatkar said the protesting youths wanted MCA to convey to the England team that they should help get the sacred sword of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj back from their country.

India and England are set to play three one-day internationals on March 23, 26 and 28. No spectators would be allowed inside the stadium due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Pune.

“We had sought permission for 50 per cent attendance but the government has denied it,” said Kakatkar.

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