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Thursday, January 21, 1999 Published at 19:14 GMT


World: South Asia

Hindu activists call off cricket protest

The Pakistani team arrive under tight security

A militant Hindu group threatening to disrupt the test series between India and Pakistan have announced they are to suspend their campaign of protests.


The BBC's Daniel Lak: "Attention is now focused on the action on the pitch not the politics"
The announcement by the ultra-nationalist Shiv Sena party came just hours before the Pakistani cricket team arrived in Delhi for their first Test match against India in more than a decade.

Security had been heightened because of fears that extremists would try to sabotage the tournament.

Despite the announcement suspending the protest, police officials said security would remain tight.

At a press conference following the Pakistani team's arrival, their manager, Shahryar Khan, said they had brought a goodwill message from the prime minister and the people of Pakistan.


Daniel Lak: "There will be sighs of relief accross the sub-continent" (BBC Radio 5 Live)
The decision by Shiv Sena to suspend its protests followed an hour-long meeting between the Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, and the Indian Home Affairs Minister L K Advani in Bombay.

The Shiv Sena is an ally of the governing BJP in Delhi and in Maharasthra state.

Appeal for calm

Politicians on both sides had called for tolerance and calm ahead of the match, coming less than a year after both countries carried out nuclear tests.

However, police confirmed that at least 30 people were being held under preventative detention rules in Tamil Nadu as fears for the safety of the players continued.


[ image: Some protestors are angry at those suspected of seeking to disrupt the tour]
Some protestors are angry at those suspected of seeking to disrupt the tour
Hindu militants have already forced the tour schedule to be changed by digging up the pitch at Delhi. The first Test will now begin in Madras on January 28.

On Monday, an unidentified group broke into the headquarters of India's Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which had shifted its office to Calcutta, wounding one official in the process.

Leading politicians, including the vice-president of the ruling BJP, pointed the finger at the militant Hindu party Shiv Sena - but the party denied any involvement.

While India's cricket team returned from touring New Zealand to a secret location, the opposition congress party staged rallies in Bombay and Delhi calling for the arrest of Bal Thackeray, leader of Shiv Sena.

Politician named tour boss

The decision by Pakistan to name former foreign secretary Shahryar Khan as team manager reflected their concerns over the sensitivity of the event.

Khalid Mahmood, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, said: "Because of the tour being very sensitive, we felt we needed someone like him.

"Naturally there is a feeling of concern and anxiety. I hope we can focus on cricket."


Pakistan captain Wasim Akrim talks to the BBC World Service
Speaking to the BBC, Wasim Akram, captain of the Pakistan side, blamed a minority of people for attempting to ruin the sport.

"It definitely means a lot to play in India," he said.

The two sides have not played a Test match since 1987 but have played one-day internationals.

India have named two uncapped players, all-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla and opening batsman Sadagopan Ramesh, in a 14-man squad for the first Test in Madras.

Navjot Sidhu and Ajay Jadeja have lost their places after poor form in the recent series in New Zealand.

Indian squad: Mohammad Azharuddin (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Javagal Srinath, Nayan Mongia (wkt), Harbhajan Singh, Sunil Joshi, Sadagopan Ramesh, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Venkatesh Prasad, Anil Kumble.



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