Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram yesterday stepped into a row triggered by the refusal of the armed forces’ cricket team to play a first-class match in volatile Indian Kashmir.
The Jammu and Kashmir team enjoyed a walkover on Tuesday when their opponents, Services — representing the Indian armed forces — failed to turn up for a Ranji Trophy match in Srinagar.
Furious local politicians said the move sent the wrong signal at a time when the separatist violence that has dogged Kashmir for decades is waning.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) banned the Services team from the rest of the tournament.
Chidambaram said he hoped the controversy would be resolved and promised to bring cricket back to the Kashmir valley.
“I will see that a cricket match takes place in Srinagar,” Chidambaram was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.
“Whether that forfeited match will be possible, whether the forfeiture is final, I cannot say,” he said. “But I have told officials that the Services Sports Control Board must request the BCCI to schedule another match in Srinagar.”
Media reports said the decision of the Services team was taken on security grounds.
“The Services is saying Kashmir is not normal. To hell with them for that,” said Indian Kashmir’s former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who also heads the region’s cricket association.
Teams from Jammu and Kashmir regularly take part in India’s domestic cricket, but Srinagar has not hosted an international match since 1983.
Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir has been in the grip of an insurgency against New Delhi’s rule since 1989, leaving more than 47,000 people dead by official count.
But the levels of violence fell sharply after India and Pakistan, who both claim sovereignty over Kashmir, launched a stop-start peace process in 2004.