The Congress has rejected Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s criticism of India maintaining cricketing ties with Australia in the aftermath of attacks on Indians there, saying that linking sports with the attacks would reduce the gravity of the issue.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, has preferred not to comment on Thackeray’s statement made in the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna’
Thackeray has said that his party would not permit the Australian cricket team to play in Mumbai or in Maharashtra following the attacks on Indians and that national pride seemed to be missing among Indian players these days.
Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said incidents of attacks on Indian students in Australia was a very serious matter, and equating it with sports would take away from the gravity of the issue.
“The incidents of attack on Indian students are far too serious a matter,” Ahmed said.
He said the government had strongly expressed its concern over the attacks and told Australia that such incidents would adversely impact bilateral ties.
“The government should take whatever steps are needed. But linking the issue to sports will lessen its seriousness,” he said.
Ahmed added that India was hosting the Commonwealth Games this year and media reports have suggested that Australia was planning to send a big contingent. Any break in sporting ties by India can lead to similar action by Australia, he said.
Asked about the break in India-Pakistan cricketing ties after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, he said State actors were involved in sponsoring terrorism from the neighbouring country, but there was no allegation of this nature in the case of attacks on Indian students and workers in Australia.
“The ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) has been involved in sponsoring terrorism from Pakistan,” he said.
BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said he did not want to comment on Thackeray’s remarks. However, he added that there was serious concern among people over the attacks but the government had not said anything concrete.
Thackeray, in his remarks in ‘Saamna’, said that self-respect or national pride seemed to be missing among the Indian players these days. “Our boys are being stabbed, burnt and shot at in that country (Australia) and still our cricketers have no qualms about playing with that country’s cricketers,” Thackeray said.
Some Indian students in Australia have fallen victim to vicious attacks over the past few months.