Free Kashmir banners displayed at India match

A plane with a banner flies over the match. Reuters

Leeds: For the second time in the ongoing World Cup, a plane carrying political messages flew over the Headingley stadium with the India and Sri Lanka World Cup match in progress here on Saturday, leaving the International Cricket Council red-faced once again.

In the third over of the Sri Lankan innings, a plane appeared for the first time with a banner tailing behind that read “Justice for Kashmir.” The second time, with the 17th over in progress, it hovered around the stadium again with another banner that had a stronger message: “India Stop Genocide & Free Kashmir.”

During the Pakistan and Afghanistan match, where clashes broke out between the fans of either nation, jets carrying anti-Pakistan banners unfurled over the stadium here. The slogans demanded an end to alleged “forceful disappearances” in the strife-hit Balochistan. “Justice for Balochistan” and “Help End Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan,” had ICC scampering for cover.

Political sloganeering or messaging is strictly prohibited during international sporting events and global cricket events are no exception. The ICC had promised to work with the local police to ensure that such an incident didn’t occur again during the course of the tournament.

ICC World Cup 2019 IND vs SL live

We work with local police forces around the country to prevent this type of incident occurring and were assured that given Headingley is under the flight path for the Leeds Bradford Airport it would not be an issue,” the ICC had said after the first such occurrence. “We do not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup and will work with West Yorkshire police to deal with and understand why this has happened and to ensure it does not happen again. “

Obviously, its efforts haven’t yielded the desired results with Saturday’s events, not once but twice.   

“We are incredibly disappointed this has happened again,” the ICC said in a statement, shortly after the plane flew over the second time with Kashmir slogans. “We do not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. Throughout the tournament we have worked with local police forces around the country to prevent this type of protest occurring.  After the previous incident we were assured by West Yorkshire Police there would not be repeat of this issue, so we are very dissatisfied it has happened again.”

Long after ICC had issued this statement, the plane resurfaced again with another banner this time demanding an end to mob-lynching in India. “Help End Mob-lynching in India,” it read, raising question mark over action by the local authorities.

Sources in the know of ICC affairs said that while the governing body has successfully got the local police to prevent such activities, only the Yorkshire police have been non-cooperative.

It remains to be seen if ICC blacklists the venue and denies hosting rights to it in future global events.  

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