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AUSSIES 'STONED', ASSAM SHAMED!

Alleged stone-pelting at the bus carrying Team Australia members in Guwahati raises several uncomfortable questions

By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, Oct 11: At a time when Guwahati was being promoted as a “sports capital” of the country by the Sonowal Sonowal-led government in Assam and the people of the Northeast were upbeat at the return of an international cricket match after a gap of seven long years, an alleged stone-pelting incident at the bus carrying Team Australia members on Tuesday night has come as a dampener.
According to reports, the bus (AS01HC 9567) carrying the Australian team after their T-20 match against Team India at the newly-constructed Assam Cricket Association’s (ACA) stadium at Barsapara to Hotel Radisson Blu was allegedly hit by a rock thrown by miscreants in Sawkuchi area of the city near Lokhra around 11.30 pm.
The news of the incident immediately spread like wildfire late in the night after Australian cricketer Aaron Finch took to Twitter with a photograph of broken glass window. “Pretty scary having a rock thrown through the team bus window on the way back to the hotel!!” he tweeted at 11.37 pm.
And this immediately had an adverse fallout as national and international media picked up his tweet and widely reported the incident, forcing the State government to scramble. State Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also the president of ACA, tweeted at 1.33 am “Our deep apology. People of Assam never endorse such behaviour. We will punish the guilty.” He also reviewed the situation late in the night along with police officials.
Social media platforms Facebook and Twitter were flooded with comments as many condemned the incident and said the entire people of Assam should not be blamed for an “isolated” incident.
Though security officials have not ruled out miscreants throwing a stone, they have also suggested other factors for the window glass breaking like a burst due to unequal pressure inside the bus and outside, or a rock flying out of the wheel of the bus with great speed.
Two persons have been detained in connection with the incident and a case has been registered at Gorchuk police station, while a probe is underway to find out what actually transpired.
Nevertheless, the incident sent shockwaves among cricket fans not just in the city or the region, but across the globe. It has also put a huge question mark on the newly-constructed cricket stadium at Barsapara hosting any more international matches in the near future as the international cricket community is likely to raise several uncomfortable questions about the ability of the city to host such matches. Many cricket lovers also fear that the proposed IPL matches in 2018 at the new stadium too might be cancelled following the incident, though there is still no final word on it.
Ironically, the new stadium boasting some of the most modern facilities was inaugurated prior to the T-20 match and just hours before the incident by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
Later, at the instruction of the Chief Minister, State Sports Minister Naba Kumar Doley along with Chief Secretary VK Pipersenia, Director General of Police (DGP) Mukesh Sahay, Police Commissioner Hiren Nath and Kamrup (Metro) Deputy Commissioner M Angamuthu, visited Hotel Radisson Blu and met with the security officials of Team Australia on Wednesday morning. They also conveyed their deep regret at the incident to the visitors.
The incident was widely condemned both within the State and outside. Scores of cricket fans gathered outside Hotel Radisson Blu and Lokrapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport with placards expressing apologies and shouting “Sorry” to Team Australia members as they flew out of the city around 4.30 pm.
The Chief Minister too condemned the incident and vowed to take “strictest” action against the miscreants. He asked the Chief Secretary to conduct a probe, while directing the DGP to nab those responsible for the incident.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister’s Office cited international news agency AFP report that quoted a Cricket Australia spokesman of being “satisfied with the levels of security provided” at Guwahati.
Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore also tweeted: “Guwahati stone throwing incident is not reflective of our security measures. Australian team and FIFA are content with those. India remains a graceful host”.
On the other hand, senior police officials have denied any security lapse. The DGP told newsmen that the SOP (standard operating procedure), prepared in consultation with Team Australia’s security officials, was followed.
“I don’t feel there was any lapse. But, if at all there existed any, which will be found from the probe, a follow-up action will be taken. The investigation will look into every aspect vis-à-vis the security measure that was put in place,” he added.
Sahay also complimented the spectators at the venue of the T-20 match for being “very disciplined” despite Team India losing the match.
Earlier, the Commissioner of Police told reporters that a criminal case has been registered at the Gorchuk police station and that Joint Commissioner Diganta Bora, who is also the DIG (Security) has been asked to investigate security lapse, if any. He termed the incident as an isolated case and ruled out that it was a pre-planned attack. “The two buses carrying both the teams were of the same colour (red), making it difficult from a distance at night to distinguish which bus was carrying which team,” he explained.