The Shiv Sena’s storming of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) office was the latest in a long string of such attacks that have been made possible by tip-offs from a network of informers, including policemen and hotel staff.
Some of those who stormed the office on Monday were the Shiv Sena’s most “experienced” men, including those who responsible for the infamous digging of the Wankhede Stadium pitch in 1991 and the ransacking of the BCCI office in 1999.
Pandurang Sakpal, the Shiv Sena’s ‘vibhag-pramukh’ for south Mumbai, was the mastermind behind Monday’s incident, having been part of both the earlier attacks. Sakpal, a senior member of the party’s hierarchy, remembers walking around the Wankhede Stadium the night before the incident.
“We walked around the stadium the whole night, studying all possible routes to enter and exit the stadium. The planning helped us eventually,” said Sakpal.
This sort of “planning” seems to have remained with Sakpal. Till Sunday night, there was no confirmation of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief Shahryar Khan’s visit to the BCCI office.
“I activated my sources at various places. Finally, we got a confirmation early on Monday morning. Within an hour, we ensured that a 200-strong crowd assembled for the protest,” he said.
Sakpal refused to acknowledge it but these “sources” range from policemen sympathetic to the Shiv Sena to bureaucrats and staff at luxury hotels, who often are members of the Shiv Sena’s unions.
“At different times, each of them is of help to us. We even had someone in the BCCI, who confirmed the meeting eventually,” said a Sena worker involved in Monday’s attack.
The protest worked and Sakpal received a call from Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. “He said ‘abhinandan’ (congratulations),” said Sakpal.
Among those who gathered for the attack was 40-year-old Santosh Veer, a fisherman who was seen on television shouting slogans and confronting BCCI chief Shashank Manohar. Veer, the ‘shakha pramukh’ from Colaba, was not among those arrested.
“We had planned it in a way that some people would stand downstairs and alert others as soon as they saw the police. So most of us managed to escape,” said Veer.
The ‘sainik’ has been a veteran in anti-Pakistan protests, he proudly said. “Protests against Pakistani singers in the Press Club, Pakistani hockey players, Shobha De and Café Leopold,” he said, when asked which protests he was a part of.
Sakpal claimed Monday’s protest was “democratic” but acknowledged it could have gotten out of control. “Had we senior sainiks not been around, it would have been difficult to control the crowd.”
Veer said: “Only if we had five more minutes before the cops entered the scene, we would have walked away with a written assurance (that Pakistan would not play in Mumbai).”
Milind Zore, a 22-year-old Shiv Sena activist arrested for the attack, said. “We don’t want anyone from Pakistan coming to India. Soldiers are getting killed at our borders but no one is bothered about them. Anytime someone from Pakistan comes to Mumbai, we will agitate.”
Defending the attack, Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant said, “They knew that the Sena was opposed to such Indo-Pak ties. Why did they have to hold such a meeting in Mumbai then? This was not a violent protest. It was a democratic one and consistent with our stand.”