Imagine playing a World Cup match far away from your country and you get a message that is completely irrelevant to the context but is threatening to the country. That is what happened in India’s clash against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Players might not have noticed it, but it certainly didn’t go unnoticed.
An unnamed aircraft was spotted flying with a political message over the Headingley stadium while India and Sri Lanka were playing the final match in the league stage of ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Not just one, but two. “Justice for Kashmir,” the message from the first aircraft read. Another plane followed shortly with a similar message. “India stop genocide and free Kashmir,” said the message from the second aircraft.
It was the second such incident at the cricket’s biggest stage in England and Wales, after a banner was seen flying over the same ground in Leeds during last week’s match between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The place where the incident happened though, should not be a surprise as Yorkshire is considered to have a significant Pakistani population. But the question of who was flying the plane remains unanswered.
Kashmir has been a subject for dispute for India and Pakistan since the partition in 1947. Many groups from Pakistan feel that Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan and there have been attacks to press the issue. Also, anti-India sentiment runs deep in a part of Kashmir’s population and rebel groups against the Indian government get quite a lot of support.
ICC showed its disappointment over the issue after the incident occurred more than once. “Throughout the tournament we’ve worked with local police forces to prevent this type of protest occurring. After the previous incident we were assured by West Yorkshire Police there wouldn’t be a repeat of this issue, so we are very dissatisfied it’s happened again,” ICC’s official statement said.
The ICC and British air force have failed to control the air space during match days on more than one occasion now and this is a matter of serious concern.