NEW DELHI: An influential right-wing Hindu party in Mumbai warned on Wednesday that it would prevent Australia’s cricketers playing in parts of India because of attacks on Indians living Down Under.
Bal Thackeray, who heads the radical Shiv Sena party, said the Australians will be barred from playing in Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the state capital.
“We will not allow kangaroo cricketers to play in Mumbai and Maharashtra, till the attacks on Indians are stopped,.” the ageing Thackeray wrote in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna.’
“Our boys are being stabbed, burnt and shot at in that country and still our cricketers have no qualms in playing with them. Do they have any national pride?.”
The murder of Nitin Garg, 21, in Melbourne earlier this month caused anger among Indians in Australia and overseas, and prompted India’s foreign minister S. M. Krishna to suggest it would hurt ties.
The murder followed a spate of violence against Indian students in Melbourne over the past 18 months that has included beatings, robberies and stabbings and has threatened Australia’s education industry.
Australian cricketers like captain Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Matthew Hayden and Shane Watson are star attractions in the third edition of the lucrative Indian Premier League in March-April.
Two major cities in Maharashtra, Mumbai and Nagpur, are due to host IPL matches.
The party’s north Indian chapter also threatened to disrupt matches involving Australians in New Delhi, another IPL venue.
“We will do our best to ensure the matches in New Delhi are also cancelled,” the chapter’s head Sandeep Kulkarni told AFP. “We have very strong units across this region.”
The Shiv Sena has in the past prevented Pakistan’s national team from playing in the state for what it says is Islamabad’s backing of militant activities in India.
Thackeray praised movie legend Amitabh Bachchan for refusing an award from Queensland University in protest at the attack on students in Australia.
“I would have been happy if our cricketers too had shown similar self-respect in the matter,.” he wrote.
“But cricket has become a game of money, and self-respect and patriotism have taken a back-seat.”