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August 4, 2000

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'Friendship' series under review

Onkar Singh in New Delhi

Federal Minister for Sports Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa told this morning that he was reviewing the file on the 'Friendship' Series, to be played between India and Pakistan in Toronto this September.

"We have not yet taken a final decision," Dhindsa said, "but we are aware of the sentiments of the people after large-scale killings in Kashmir a couple of days back. While dealing with the file, I will keep in mind the sentiments of the people."

Dhindsa, in response to a question, said he was yet to receive any communication in this regard from Member of Parliament Kirti Azad, but "When the letter gets to me, I will give it the consideration it deserves," he added.

Earlier this morning, former cricketer and MP from Bihar Kirti Azad demanded that the government refuse permission to the Indian cricket team to play against Pakistan in Toronto, in view of the wholesale massacre in Kashmir.

"How can you even think in terms of playing cricket with Pakistan in the present circumstances, while our citizens are being slaughtered by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists?" Azad demanded. "The Indian team should not go to Canada in these circumstances to play Pakistan."

Azad told that he would be writing to the sports minister, expressing these views.

Another former cricketer to raise his voice against the 'Friendship' series is Manoj Prabhakar. "We have a greedy BCCI, which only thinks of making money all the time," Prabhakar said. "When hundreds of innocent people are losing their lives in Kashmir at the hands of the militants, the board officials are planning a trip to Canada to play against the very nation that is encourging trans-border terrorism in India and giving aid to separatist elements.

"This," said Prabhakar, "is shameful. I hope Sports Minister Dhindsa keeps the sentiments of the people of India in mind while dealing with the file, and refuses permission to the Indian team to play Pakistan. If we did not play against Pakistan last year after the Kargil war, we should do the same even now," he demanded.

Board president Dr A C Muthaiah had, in response to a question from a reader on rediff chat during his live appearance yesterday, said, "The file regarding the Sahara tournament was presented to the government quite some time ago. We are waiting for word from the government and will abide by whatever decision is taken."

U K Bose, chief controller of the Sahara Cup annual fixture in Toronto, said that he was trying to get in touch with his boss Subrata Roy, who alone is capable of taking any decision on the issue on behalf of the sponsors. "For the time being," Bose told, "I cannot make any comments, I will get back to you as soon as some decision is taken."

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