The Inside story

The first ever one day International was played in Srinagar on October 13, 1983. A spirited Indian team having won the Prudential (World) cup at Lords expected a win at Srinagar. But in a few moments the team realised it was playing West Indies not in India but somewhere in Barbados. India lost the match and Kashmiris won a battle. The message was conveyed in clear terms. Indian captain, Kapil Dev was angry and the then Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah had to eat a humble pie. The stadium was packed to capacity. The highly charged spectators were chanting anti-India slogans. The West Indian players were amazed. Could they get such support in West Indies? A spectator displayed Imran Khan’s poster urging Sunil Gavaskar to have a look. Gavaskar responded nicely. He raised his hand, bowed his head a little as if admitting Imran Khan’s greatness. The gesture had an impact. Gavaskar was spared and the spectators focused attention on other players.

A pleasant breeze made the chinars shower their leaves on the spectators as if congratulating them for making a strong political statement. It was lunch time. Things calmed down a bit. Some people went outside to fetch snacks. The drama inside did not end even during lunch time. However, the scene changed. Three youths led by a bony chap rushed towards the wicket and started digging. The police chased them and finally grabbed them near the stands. The match resumed and people almost forgot the incident.

The trio tried to dig the wicket to disrupt the match. According to them, Kashmir was a disputed territory and could not, therefore, host international matches. It was later learnt that the trio had been detained under public safety act (PSA) for `endangering security of the state.’   

The inside story was revealed by one of the accused.  According to him, in the second week of October, 1983 Shabir Shah held a meeting with some college going boys in a tailoring shop at the posh Residency Road, Srinagar. The boys were told to disrupt an international cricket match to be played in Srinagar on October 13. “Kashmir is a disputed territory and no international match can be played here. This is the time when we can convey a strong message to India and the outside world”, his arguments were too strong to be resisted by the `gullible’ group.”

The group had no political affiliations at that time. However, they agreed with Shah and the preparations for disrupting the match commenced.  One of the boys in the group was a salesman in a corporation. He donated some money to purchase tickets for the group.  Two of them travelled to Sopore to purchase the tickets.  

And, on October 13 the group entered the stadium in high spirits. Shabir Shah had urged the group to wait for his signal. The signal, however, was never given. Meanwhile the first innings ended. The group came out for lunch and decided to `invade’ the pitch after lunch break. But to their dismay they found police chasing three boys when they entered the stadium. The group identified them. It was Showkat Bakshi and Mushtaq-ul-Islam along with a tall but thin boy. They were held, beaten to pulp and then taken to the nearby police station. Strangely enough Showkat Bakshi and the other boy were not part of the group that talked to Shabir Shah. They dug the pitch inside the crease where it made no difference. Had they dug it around what cricketers call good length spot, the match would have been abandoned.
As the match advanced, the pitch of the slogans and screams also increased. Kashmiris had the last laugh that day. West Indies won the match and Kashmiris had a hearty laugh though not the last laugh.

The trio attracted international attention. The Peoples League and Jamiat-e-Tulba owned them much to their dismay. A chargesheet was filed in a court of law against the trio and Shabir Ahmad Shah.  After twenty-eight years, the court acquitted all the accused last week for want of evidence.

According to political circles, the match was a referendum against India. Around twenty-five thousand people from all parts of Kashmir. In 1986 when Jagmohan ruled the state, another match was played between India and Australia. However, this time, the civilians were not allowed inside the stadium. It was filled by police and army personnel in civvies. India lost the match. Indian players were shocked and so was New Delhi. In the evening Dr Farooq went to console the players but Kapil Dev, it is believed, gave him some tough moments.  The match became one of the reasons for Farooq’s ouster in 1984.   

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According to political circles, the match was a referendum against India. Around twenty-five thousand people from all parts of Kashmir. In 1986 when Jagmohan ruled the state, another match was played between India and Australia. However, this time, the civilians were not allowed inside the stadium. It was filled by police and army personnel in civvies. India lost the match. Indian players were shocked and so was New Delhi. In the evening Dr Farooq went to console the players but Kapil Dev, it is believed, gave him some tough moments.  The match became one of the reasons for Farooq’s ouster in 1984.