The Tamil Nadu police on Monday sent back an under-15 cricket team from Sri Lanka citing security reasons.
The 16-member Lankan team had arrived in Chennai on Sunday to participate in a private tournament from August 4-7.
The incident comes close on the heels of an article against chief minister J Jayalalithaa on the Sri Lankan defence website which also had a graphic image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Former MP and Congress leader JM Haroon, the tournament organiser, said he was shocked by the police action at a time when the Tamil Nadu government and chief minister Jayalalithaa were encouraging sports.
He said the Lankan boys had checked into a hotel but were immediately taken to the airport.
This is not the first instance Tamil Nadu not allowing Lankan teams and players from participating in events in the state.
Jayalalithaa has been strident in her stance against Lanka owing to the emotive issue of alleged war crimes against ethnic Tamils in the island nation. She has also pursued the cause of Lanka arresting the state’s fishermen.
In 2012, the Tamil Nadu government had denied a Lankan football team permission to play friendly matches. The Royal College of Colombo team had come to play against a Chennai Customs team. The state government had suspended a stadium officer for giving approval for this match.
Last year, the Jayalalithaa government had also refused to allow Lankan cricketers from playing Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in the state. This forced the organisers to shift some matches to venues outside Tamil Nadu.
Haroon wondered if sending back the under-15 team was a part of the state government’s political response to the Sri Lankan issue.
“It is shocking and unfortunate that the boys were packed off. There should not be any politics in sports,” he said.
Haroon said the tournament, now in its eighth edition, had 12 teams including one from Malaysia. “The Pakistan and Bangladesh teams could not make it owing to some visa issues.”
Haroon said the police were informed “well in advance” about teams from other countries arriving for the tournament.