New Delhi: Asserting that the World T20 clash between India and Pakistan will be held in Dharamsala, Himachal Praesh, on March 19 as scheduled, the Indian cricket board and the central government on Friday sought to allay security concerns over the highly emotive match.
Political leaders in Himachal Pradesh cutting across party lines have expressed reservations on holding the Super 10 Group 2 match in the state. Serving and retired Indian Army personnel have also voiced their opposition as Kangra district -- where Dharamsala is located -- is home to a large number of martyred soldiers.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh
While Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh earlier this week sent a letter to union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, asserting that the state government will not be able to provide security during the game, former chief minister Shanta Kumar of the BJP too in his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Pakistan match should not be allowed at Dharamsala as Kangra district is home to hundreds of valiant jawans, martyrs and ex-servicemen.
"As far as the match is concerned, we are firm that we will be hosting the match there (Dharamsala) as per schedule because there are interests of commitment which requires to be fulfilled," senior Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) official Rajiv Shukla told the media here.
"Otherwise, the ICC (International Cricket Council) will take a stern action against the venue. The state government is also willing to cooperate," he said.
"We will be providing foolproof security to the Pakistan cricket team. All the players will be safe. Now, it is for the Pakistan cricket board to take a decision," Shukla, who is the Indian Premier League chairman, asserted.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also came out in support of holding the match in Dharamsala, stating that the central government will ask para-military forces to provide security if the state administration is unable to do so.
"If I get any request concerning security, we will look into it," Rajnath Singh told reporters in New Delhi on Friday.
"If the chief minister asks for security forces, we will provide para-military forces to ensure that the match is held in a smooth manner," he added.
The issue had earlier sparked a war of words between Virbhadra Singh and BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur. They later held a meeting to sort out the issue.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan also on Thursday threatened to pull out of the T20 format's pinnacle event if they failed to get clarity about the security situation in Dharamsala from the Indian government.
However, Thakur's fellow-BJP parliamentarian Shanta Kumar expressed concern over Dharamsala hosting the India-Pakistan match in a missive to Prime Minister Modi on February 28. The region is home to a large number of martyred soldiers, including Kargil War heroes Captain Vikram Batra and Captain Amol Kalia, he pointed out.
The veteran BJP leader, who belongs to the Kangra parliamentary constituency, said the match could create a law and order problem, besides hurting the sentiments of the families of the martyrs and retired and serving soldiers.
President of state Ex-Servicemen League Vijai Singh Mankotia also wrote to the prime minister, asking him to call off the match. He said it was a matter of pride that thousands of soldiers from the state are serving in the armed forces and hundreds of martyrs from the region have sacrificed their lives.
State Transport Minister G.S. Bali had issued an ultimatum to the BCCI, saying that if the match is not cancelled, it will lead to a massive agitation.