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Out of the blue security upsets cricket match goers Saturday, December 15, 2001

News Source : Times News Network
AHMEDABAD: If the first three days of the cricket Test match between India and England was more of picnicking and uninhibited enjoyment of the game, Day Four will stand out for the edgy policemen ready to treat every fan as a potential suicide bomber.

Cellular phones, binoculars, food stuff, small mechanical hooters and even smiles were debarred from entering the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium here. If you're wondering about that smile bit on the list of banned items, read on:

Sumit Mahajan was at the entrance of gate number 4 leading to the Upper Pavilion. He was being frisked (for the third time) by the policemen standing guard. Soon Mahajan was being pulled up by head constable C J Koria for having cracked a smile at his over-enthusiasm. Koria turned to his sub-inspector, G L Singhal, for help. Mahajan was given an earful on why one should not smile when an officer is trying to do his duty. He was then shoved into the stadium.

Mahajan, a business management student in the city, was not the only one entering the stadium premises with a scowl on his face. Thanks to the terrorist strike in Parliament on Thursday, unprecedented security arrangements at the stadium proved to be quite a dampener for cricket enthusiasts of Ahmedabad and even those from the UK.

Abused, frisked and threatened by the police, the die-hard cricket fans, who till Thursday had been boisterous, sat in silence on Day Four of the Test. Robbed even of their hooters by the cops, the characteristically cacaphonic encouragement for Bhajji & Co were barely audible.

Ketan Vaidya, a businessman residing in Ambawadi, retorted: "The police insulted and abused me just because I had a carry bag with me."

David Cooper from Bulwall, near Nottingham, too had his own set of experiences to share. Cooper was prevented from bringing in a cup of soft drink and some munchies he bought at the official food stalls. "It is hard to understand what harm could a paper cup and plate could do. The game is so much better if one has his eatables at hand," rued Cooper.

As Cooper was talking to TNN, a group of police officials climbed the stairs of the Upper Pavilion, herding and shoving fans to their seats. At another end of the stadium, a police constable brandished his baton and charged at a group of teenagers who had come close to the tall fence covered with wire mesh.

"Today we had less of fun and more of restrictions. We are being treated as school boys," quipped Keur Patel, a Congress activist and a businessman who resides in Usmanpura.

Soon after lunch, the disturbing silence around the stadium was broken by some brave and spirited whistling by a Maninagar-based businessman -- Bharat Patel. Patel soon became much sought after and was invited to join the bored audience at different corners of the stadium as his rhythmic whistles imbibed spirit into the goings on and had the cricket enthusiasts clapping in tandem.

Rahul Bhatt, who had come from Gandhinagar, was seething with anger for having been humiliated by the cops. "My friend Sanjay Shah and I were given marching orders for possessing a cellphone and a pack of cigarettes, but we saw others carrying binoculars, cigarettes and even cellphones into the stadium," said Bhatt, as a cellular phone tucked inside the pocket of a member of the Gujarat Cricket Association betrayed its "illegal" presence by a shrill ring.

Naina Shah, who runs a paying guest service at Navrangpura, was equally enraged at the security arrangements. "There should be some logic and reason behind the security measures. I had some food stuff and water with me and those were debarred from the ground. My two sons and I had to depend on some poorly-cooked food and dirty drinking water at the stadium."

Police officials too had explanations for what they were doing. "We have orders from the top to be extremely strict, after all you people will blame us if anything (untoward) happens".

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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