At two matches during the ongoing World Cup, airplanes have flown over Headingley carrying political messages. The BCCI has asked the ICC to ensure that there is no repeat of this in the remaining games.
Three political banners were visible during Saturday’s match between India and Sri Lanka at Headingley. Two of the messages revolved around the Kashmir dispute – “#JusticeforKashmir” and “India stop genocide & free Kashmir” – while the third read “Help end mob lynching in India”. At the same ground earlier in the tournament, during a game between Afghanistan and Pakistan, airplanes flew similar banners – carrying the messages “Justice for Balochistan” and “Help end disappearances in Pakistan”.
And as it had done during the Afghanistan-Pakistan game, the ICC again issued a brief media statement saying it did “not condone any sort of political messages” during the World Cup. The BCCI has now asked the ICC to take all possible steps to prevent such instances during the remainder of the tournament. “We want to put on record that such incidents are unacceptable,” BCCI CEO Rahul Johri is understood to have written in the mail, also sent to the ECB.
“These are divisive political messages which have no place in sporting arena,” Vinod Rai, the CoA (the BCCI’s Committee of Administrators) chairman told ESPNcricinfo. “So we have asked the ICC and the authorities these messages are not allowed to contaminate the game.”
According to Rai the Indian High Commissioner to the UK has also asked respective local authorities to highlight the seriousness of the issue and safeguard the security of the Indian fans and squad during the World Cup.
“We are incredibly disappointed this has happened again,” the ICC statement on Saturday said. “Throughout the tournament we have worked with local police forces around the country to prevent this type of protest occurring. After the previous incident we were assured by West Yorkshire Police there would not be a repeat of this issue, so we are very dissatisfied it has happened again.”
The ICC is already working with police forces in Manchester and Birmingham, the cities hosting the two semi-finals, and is confident that such incidents will not occur again.
Apart from the airplane banners, there were also chants in the crowd in support of Khalistan – a secessionist movement in the Indian state of Punjab that reached its peak in the 1980s – during two of Pakistan’s games at Edgbaston and Headingley.