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Monday, January 18, 1999 Published at 15:29 GMT

World: South Asia

Indian cricket offices attacked

Hindu activists also demonstrated in Delhi on Monday

Demonstrators from the ultra-nationalist Shiv Sena party have attacked the offices of the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI).

BBC's Sanjiv Srivastava: Now a prestige issue for the Shiv Sena
The right-wing Hindu party opposes Pakistan's cricket tour of India, which starts on 21 January.

The attack on the BCCI offices in Bombay lasted 10 minutes and caused extensive damage. Computers, office equipment and trophies won by India's cricket team were smashed. Windows were broken and office furniture turned upside-down.

BCCI executive secretary Sharad Diwadkar, who witnessed the attack, said: "What could I do? There were 20 of them in my office. I just put my head down."

Reports said at least 50 protesters stormed into the offices on Monday afternoon. Senior police officers rushed to the site.

[ image: Many cricket fans oppose the Shiv Sena's actions]
Many cricket fans oppose the Shiv Sena's actions
The attack came less than 24 hours after the Pakistan Government gave the go-ahead for their team to tour following security guarantees by the Indian Government.

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has criticised the BCCI's decision to invite Pakistan to tour. He has said his party members will not allow the visiting team to play in India on the grounds that Pakistan is an enemy country.

Some Shiv Sena leaders have gone to the extent of threatening Indian cricketers of serious consequences if they play in the forthcoming series.

A BBC correspondent in Bombay, Sanjiv Srivastava, says the controversy is annoying a large number of cricket lovers in this cricket-crazy country.

It has also become a major embarrassment for Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose coalition government includes the Shiv Sena party. He has assured full protection to the visiting team and spoken in favour of the tour.

[ image: Officials say the damage to Delhi's pitch was
Officials say the damage to Delhi's pitch was "minimal"
Two weeks ago, Shiv Sena activists dug up the pitch at Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla cricket ground, and threatened to sabotage the first Test.

The game was later switched to the southern city of Madras with the second Test being played in Delhi. The BCCI ordered security to be tightened at all venues due to host matches against Pakistan.

It is 12 years since Pakistan played Test matches in India. The Shiv Sena has sought for years to thwart sporting and cultural links between India and Pakistan.

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