Bhubaneswar: Fearing an
attack, the Pakistani women's cricket team has been lodged at the Barabati stadium in Cuttack city, officials said Friday.
"One Pakistani player was taken to a hospital outside the stadium
after she fell ill. No other player has gone out of the stadium.
None of them have expressed their wish to go outside," a district
police officer told IANS.
Cuttack, 26 km from here, has a population of over half a million,
of which 94 per cent are Hindus and five per cent Muslims.
Christians and Sikh comprise the rest.
The city witnessed large scale protests last month when the state
government decided to host the International Cricket Council's
women's cricket matches involving the Pakistani team.
"Every day there are demonstrations outside the stadium or
elsewhere in the city. This is happening since Jan 23," the
Police arrested 34 activists of Utkal Bharat, a small political
party, Friday after they shouted slogans against the Pakistani
team outside the stadium clubhouse, taking the total arrests in
the city in such protests since Jan 23 to 300, he said.
"What kind of World Cup matches are these when players are
confined to a stadium for security. Such matches should be
cancelled," a local cricketer said.
"When we knew that we cannot provide the players the freedom and
luxury, we should have avoided hosting such matches in Odisha" the
cricketer, who did not want to be named, added.
An organiser refuted the allegation. "They are not going out
because of security reasons. Facilities at the club house match
those at five-star hotels," Asirbad Behera, secretary of Orissa
Cricket Association, told IANS.
Behera said cultural programmes are being organised in the stadium
daily to entertain the players and adequate security arrangements
have been made.
"We don't mind the accommodation. We are not here to stay in
five-star hotels. We are here to play cricket and we are
comfortable (in the clubhouse)," Pakistani cricket team captain
Sana Mir said.
The players are likely to stay for a fortnight at the same venue
to play the matches.
However, right wing groups like Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad
(VHP) and political parties such as BJP, Kalinga Sena and Utkal
Bharat said they would continue protesting.
They say they are against the Pakistanis playing here because of
the recent tensions between India and Pakistan at the Line of
Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Last month, two Indian
soldiers were killed and their bodies mutilated by Pakistani
soldiers along the LoC. One soldier's head was cut off and taken
away by Pakistani troops.
"We have nothing against players of other countries," Utkal Bharat
president M.A. Kharabela Swain, who was arrested thrice during the
past few days, said.
Cuttack was chosen as a last-minute venue after the Shiv Sena
threatened to disrupt Pakistan's matches in Mumbai where the
tournament was originally scheduled.
Initially the organisers had wanted to house the Pakistani players
in a hotel in state capital Bhubaneswar. However, they decided to
lodge them at the newly-built stadium clubhouse so that they have