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Acquittals over Kashmir 1983 cricket pitch sabotage

A court has acquitted 12 men accused by Indian Kashmir authorities of damaging a cricket pitch during a one-day match between India and the West Indies 28 years ago, officials said Wednesday.

Police arrested 12 men after part of the pitch was dug up during the lunch break by separatist protesters at the venue in the Indian Kashmir summer capital Srinagar on October 13, 1983.

Despite the incident, the West Indies went on to win the game -- the first international cricket match played in Kashmir.

The Indian "home side" were booed by local spectators and the West Indians were cheered for every run they scored and every Indian wicket they took.

"All of us have been acquitted as the prosecution failed to produce any evidence against us," said Showket Bakshi, one of the arrested men.

All 12 were released on bail in 1984 and some of them, including Bakshi, later joined the armed insurgency against Indian rule that erupted in 1989.

Kashmir is held in part by India and Pakistan, and the two nuclear-armed rivals claim the region in its entirety.

The 1983 match had angered separatists who argued that holding international matches strengthened New Delhi's hold over Kashmir, where anti-India sentiment runs deep.

Charges were only framed against the men in 1989, after Muslim militants launched the insurgency.

"On Monday, the court acquitted all the 12 for want of evidence and witnesses," said Mir Urfi, one of the defence counsels.

In 1986, the same stadium hosted the only other international cricket match in Kashmir, a one-day game between India and Australia. India lost the match by three wickets.

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