Patna: The murders of four migrant workers from Bihar in Jammu and Kashmir have triggered demands from BJP leaders in the state for the Indian team to forfeit the ICC T20 World Cup match with Pakistan.
Union Minister Giriraj Singh led the charge Monday, saying that under the present circumstances, India should reconsider cricketing ties with Pakistan.
He was backed by Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tarkishore Prasad who also said the match, scheduled for 24 October, should not go ahead.
“Terrorism and cricket cannot go together. Any match with Pakistan should be boycotted,” Prasad told The Print. “How can we play cricket with Pakistan when they are playing with our blood?”
BJP spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel, who is also the chairman of the management committee of Bihar Cricket Association (BCA), is another who has backed the boycott demand.
“The BCCI should inform the ICC that it would not play matches against Pakistan. There is anger among the people for the killings,” Patel said.
Within a span of two weeks, four Bihari migrants have been killed by terrorists, starting with the murder of Virendra Paswan, a pani puri vendor in Srinagar, on 5 October. It was followed by the killing of another street vendor from Banka district and two labourers from Araria district.
The killings have led to at least 8,000 Bihari migrants returning to their native villages within a span of five days.
Other parties keep cricket out of politics
The other parties in the state, including the BJP’s ally, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), have kept cricket out of politics.
“We are concerned about the killings and I have talked to J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha. He has assured me that steps are being taken for the safety of migrant labourers,” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had said Monday. “Our officials are talking with their counterparts in J&K. But nobody can stop anyone from going to another state for their livelihood.”
The main opposition, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), is using the killings to highlight Nitish Kumar’s failure to create jobs.
“It is a double hit for the people of Bihar by a double engine government. Jobs are not available for the labourers. If they go out, they are killed,” said RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.
“All the Bihar CM does is express sympathy and give a package of Rs 2 lakh as compensation. Even those killed by snakebites get compensation of Rs 4 lakh.”
The RJD, however, is opposed to the cricket match being cancelled.
“The demands made by BJP leaders is a reflection of their mentality to divide society. Cricket is played in a sportsman spirit that glues societies,” said RJD spokesperson Mritunjay Tiwari, who is also president of the Bihar Players’ Association.
He alleged that BJP is using the unfortunate killings of Biharis in Kashmir to pursue its divisive agenda.
The BJP demand also comes ahead of crucial bypolls in two assembly seats — Tarapur and Kusheshwar Asthan — on 30 October. Both seats were held by the JD(U) and Nitish has a lot riding on the outcome.
The JD(U), however, feels that the BJP has not done enough to ensure its victory.
“The BJP support has been more oral than substantial. BJP’s tallest leader and minister Samrat Choudhary has not visited Tarapur to campaign for our candidate,” said a senior JD(U) leader.
“There is a significant population of Muslims in both seats. We do not hope to get the Muslim votes but at least we do not want the Muslim votes to be aggressive against us. But the demand for boycotting Pakistan in cricket may make them aggressive.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)