IMAGE: A pro-Khalistan protestor is arrested by police officers during the match between India and New Zealand at Old Trafford on Tuesday. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters
Expatriate Sikh separatists raising anti-India slogans were evicted from Old Trafford during Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final, leaving a red-faced ICC scampering for cover yet again.
Holding banners with political messages, the spectators were apparently demanding a referendum on creating an independent homeland of Khalistan in Punjab.
“Two males were arrested for a breach of the peace, both have subsequently been released without charge,” said a police statement.
The group appeared to be similar to the ones seen at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham during India’s World Cup match against England on June 30. They had been forced to leave the stands by ground security at the time.
“We were asked to remove Referendum 2020 T-shirts and banners by officials, which we refused to take down as Khalistan is a political opinion,” said Paramjeet Singh Pamma, from the Sikhs for Justice outfit, in a statement following the incident.
“We were peacefully advocating our right to campaign and we will take appropriate legal action,” he had said at the time.
The group admitted raising “Khalistan Zindabad” slogans and that the International Cricket Council (ICC) had officially complained about their presence.
“We can confirm a small group of fans were asked to leave Old Trafford during the first innings today for breaching the ticketing terms and conditions by undertaking a political protest,” an ICC spokesperson told PTI.
“We do not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup and initially asked the group to stop the protest so they could remain in venue, when they refused they were asked to leave,” the spokesperson added.
The current World Cup has seen a number of incidents with political overtones at various grounds. The ICC has distanced itself on all occasions.
Anti-India banners were unfurled from planes over the Headingley ground during India’s last stage match against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
It followed an earlier incident when a banner reading ‘Justice for Balochistan’ was flown over the same ground in Leeds during the game between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
For the first semi-final, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) ensured that air space above Old Trafford was made a ‘No Fly Zone’ in the wake of the unsavoury incidents at Headingley.
“We work with venue security and local police forces around the country to prevent this type of protest occurring and will continue to do so,” he further said.
There has been an earlier incident of Pro Khalistani slogans being raised during a Pakistan match.
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