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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 September 2005, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Protection for Indian tennis star
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Sania Mirza
Mirza says she will take the controversy in her stride
Police will provide a huge security detail for Indian tennis star Sania Mirza during a world tennis tournament in Calcutta next week.

The heavy security follows rumours that a radical Islamic group threatened to stop her playing in the tournament unless she changed her on-court dress.

But the Jamiat-ulema-e-Hind has denied that it has issued such a threat.

The 18-year-old Muslim player recently became the first Indian woman to reach the fourth round of the US Open.

"We cannot take a chance with the security of someone like Sania," Calcutta's additional police commissioner Gautam Chakrabarty said.

"We have deployed the best of our women police, nearly a hundred of them, to guard her both on and off the court and we have made special arrangements to frisk all spectators attending the tournament," he said.

Mirza will be in Calcutta for the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Sunfest tournament.

We dont expect a Muslim girl to wear such skimpy clothes in public
Siddiqullah Choudhury, West Bengal Jamiat-ulema-e-Hind leader
But Jamiat-ulema-e-Hind leader in West Bengal Siddiqullah Choudhury denied his group had threatened Mirza.

"These are rumours, we have not threatened to stop Sania or anybody else from playing," he said.

"Though it is true that the kind of dress Sania wears offends us - we don't expect a Muslim girl to wear such skimpy clothes in public."

Rising star

But the police in Calcutta say they are not willing to take any chances after such groups stopped Bangladeshi feminist writer Taslima Nasreen addressing a public convention against fundamentalism in southern Bengal some months ago.

Sania Mirza has refused to be drawn into the controversy, merely asking forgiveness "for whatever I have to do on court as an 18-year-old."

She has also told reporters not to quiz her on religion.

The teenager has emerged as one of India's leading sporting icons after a sensational climb in WTA rankings during the year from 326 to 34.

In a country hitherto dominated by cricket, companies are now rushing to sign her up for product endorsements.



SEE ALSO:
Tennis star deflects clothing row
09 Sep 05 |  South Asia
The girl who is breaking barriers
09 Feb 05 |  South Asia
Mirza woos and wins British press
23 Jun 05 |  South Asia


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