Sena damage pitch ahead of Indo-Pak clash

Published: Thursday, December 18, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Agra:Hardline Hindu activists have damaged a pitch being prepared for match between Indian and Pakistan veteran cricketers in the north Indian Taj Mahal city of Agra, officials said.

Members of the Shiv Sena, a right-wing Hindu group, said they dug up the pitch late on Wednesday.

"We condemn the policies of Pakistan and oppose the holding of cricket matches till Pakistan brings an end to terrorism," said Pawan Chauhan, a Shiv Sena leader in Agra.

Senior superintendent of police in Agra, Ashutosh Pandey, said they were searching for those responsible and security had been tightened around the stadium.

A three-match series is to be played between the Pakistani and Indian veteran cricket teams, including one in Agra on December 24.

"We condemn the action of the Shiv Sena and the pitch will be prepared again. The match will be held as scheduled," said Sameer Chaturvedi, a member of the match organising committee.

"Damaging the pitch is an immature act. It can not be justified when the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is taking the initiative for normalcy between both countries," he added.

India accuses Pakistan of backing the infiltration of militants into Indian Kashmir where they have been waging a separatist insurgency since 1989. Islamabad denies the charge but the issue brought the countries to the brink of war last year.

However tensions have eased since Vajpayee offered "a hand of friendship" in April. Among other steps, the Indian Government in October cleared a tour of its regular cricket team to Pakistan in February-March next year.

Cricketing ties were snapped by New Delhi in 2000, shortly after the 1999 Kargil conflict when 1,000 combatants from both sides were killed.

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