Protests against Pak players: Hockey league member meets Mumbai Police, sources say

A representative of Hockey India League (HIL) has met with the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Mumbai regarding the protests against Pakistani players, sources say.

Tension between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) has spilt over to the sports turf again, with some protests against the first HIL featuring Pakistani players.

The Mumbai Magicians team has four Pakistani players and is scheduled to play a match in the city on the 20th of this month. A final decision on the participation of the Pakistani players in the upcoming games is expected to be taken this evening by HIL organisers.

Meanwhile, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has written to the International Cricket Council or ICC on concerns over security for the Pakistan cricket team in the women's World Cup beginning later this month in India.

There have been protests in Mumbai by the Shiv Sena and in Delhi by an outfit called the Hindu Yuwak Sabha demanding that Pakistani hockey players not be allowed to play in India. Adding to the controversy, Shiv Sena spokesperson, Sanjay Raut, today said, "We banished the hockey players from Pakistan. We hope that all our political parties will take note of it."

Rajiv Shukla, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs has said that any "decision will be taken keeping in mind the sentiments of the people."
Indian politicians and sportsmen have spoken strongly in support of the eight Pakistani players who will play in the tournament that began yesterday.  "Any player or artist who comes from across the border can only fill hearts with love," said former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, the brand ambassador for HIL and a BJP Member of Parliament.

On Monday during the inaugural match between the Delhi Waveriders and Punjab Warriors, two Hindu Yuwak Sabha members attempted to get on to the ground at the National Stadium. Their attempts to disrupt the match were foiled by security personnel.

On Sunday, a group of Shiv Sena workers had protested outside Mumbai's Churchgate Stadium, where the Mumbai Magicians team was training. The protestors shouted slogans, but things did not get out of hand as the players were whisked away through the rear exit of the stadium. "Our leader, Uddhav Thackeray, has said that no Pakistani player, either a cricket player or hockey player should be allowed to play in India. We are opposed to this. We don't want them here," said one of the protestors.

The Shiv Sena has often orchestrated protests against Indo-Pak cricket matches in the past. In 1991, Shiv Sainiks had dug up the pitch at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai ahead of a match between the two sides. Similarly, in 1999, they vandalised the pitch at the capital's Feroz Shah Kotla grounds prior to an Indo-Pak fixture.

Reacting to the protests, former hockey player Jugraj Singh said it was unfair to target sportspersons. "Players always build, they do not break. We should respect those who build and insult those who break (sic)," he asserted.

Diplomatic and military conflicts between the two neighbours have often hit bilateral sporting ties, especially in cricket. Between the 26/11 attacks and the recent ODI series, the only time the Pakistan cricket team visited India was during the 2011 World Cup. The recent T20 and ODI was the first bilateral series between the two sides in five years.

Hockey players from Pakistan though have visited India more frequently - among other tournaments, they have played in the World Cup and Commonwealth Games in 2010.

(With Agency inputs)

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