It was scheduled to be a meeting between BCCI president Shashank Manohar and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shahryar Khan to discuss potential bilateral cricket ties between the two countries. But the Shiv Sena ensured that it didn’t take place.
At around 10.30 am, with half-an-hour to go for the meeting, over 50 Sena activists stormed through the gates of Wankhede Stadium and barged into the BCCI cricket centre, shouting slogans and waving black and saffron flags.
They also confronted Manohar, demanding that he cancel the talks, while flashing placards that read, “Go back Shahryar Khan” and “Pakistan Murdabad” among others.
There was speculation that Khan and Manohar were set to discuss the possibility of a bilateral series between India and Pakistan in the UAE or a triangular ODI tournament between the two teams and Bangladesh in December.
Ten protesters were arrested as they tried to flee the premises, though most of them got away.
“The arrested accused were charged with unlawful assembly under the Indian Penal Code along with relevant sections of the Bombay Police Act, as they staged a protest without any permission. After being produced in court, they were released on bail on a surety of Rs 2,000 each,” said Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni.
Senior police officers said the BCCI had failed to inform the police, either verbally or in writing, about the scheduled meeting. Soon after the attack, security was beefed up around the Oberoi-Trident Hotel where Khan and Najam Sethi, the PCB CEO, were staying.
Later in the day, Khan and Sethi checked out of the hotel and were whisked away to the airport amid tight security. They then took a flight to Delhi, where they are expected to meet their BCCI counterparts, including secretary Anurag Thakur and IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla.
“What we are doing is the will of the people. We will continue to protest against Pakistan. What we did was to stop talks between the BCCI and PCB. We will not allow Pakistan to play in the country,” said Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut.
The Shiv Sena’s latest protest is the third of its kind within the last fortnight. Ten days ago, the Sena put up strong opposition to Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali performing in the city, leading to cancellation of his concerts which were to be held in Mumbai and Pune.
Last Monday, Sena activists blackened the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, former political aide to former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, in an attempt to stop him from organising a book launch function for former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.
The Sena’s raid on the BCCI office today drew widespread criticism, with a number of politicians from across parties condemning the act. Shukla insisted that the talks hadn’t been called off despite the Sena’s attempts. “In no way the dialogue will be stopped. BCCI has never compromised with national interests,” he said.
Anurag Thakur, who besides being the BCCI secretary is also a BJP MP, criticised the Sena but was noncommittal on the chances of India and Pakistan resuming cricketing ties.