As Pakistan continues to flex its muscle along the Line of Control (LoC), Jammu & Kashmir has closed the door for the neighbouring country’s wrestlers by declaring them persona non grata. For the first time since 2005, Pakistani wrestlers will not participate in the annual dangal (bout) to charm Hindu pilgrims on the foothills of the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi in the holy town of Katra in Jammu during Navratri.
This year, the Jammu & Kashmir Indian Style Wrestling Association, which has been organising the annual Mission Dosti Dangal since 2005, has omitted Pakistani wrestlers. It has instead invited wrestlers from England, Belarus and Ukraine to participate in the bout in Katra on Friday.
The association had started Mission Dosti with the aim of building bridges with Pakistan using sport as a medium. Despite terror attacks and grave provocation for the last eight years, the bouts took place uninterrupted since 2005. However, things have changed this year in view of the repeated ceasefire violations along the LoC by Pakistan.
“The association has decided not to invite wrestlers from Pakistan because of the ceasefire violations on the borders, infiltration, terror attacks and brutal killings of our brave soldiers,” Shiv Kumar Sharma, president, Jammu & Kashmir Indian Style Wrestling Association, told dna.
“People in Jammu & Kashmir are very angry and are raising slogans against Pakistan apart from burning their flag. The mood is completely different this time.”
The dangal has been immensely popular and Pakistani wrestlers have been the biggest draw of the annual event in Katra. Locals and the organisers admit that their absence will be sorely felt.
“We will miss the Pakistani wrestlers because they were the main attraction (of the bout). They had been kind in accepting our invitation. Once, when the Navratri bout coincided with Eid, they told their families that they would celebrate Eid with their brothers in Katra. They did not cancel their visit,” said Sharma.
The association is hopeful that things will improve along the LoC and that the Pakistani wrestlers will take part in the event next year. “By not inviting them this time, our mission to build bridges of friendship has taken a hit. Let there be normalcy after which we will start the mission afresh next year,” Sharma told dna.
The ninth edition of the event has been rechristened as the 9th Rustum-International Indian Style Dangal. “This year, the cash prize for winners is Rs1 lakh. Also, we will be honouring Olympic silver medalist Sushil Kumar during the dangal,” said Sharma.
The Mission Dosti Dangal (bout) was started in 2005 to improve relations with Pakistan. For the past eight years, Pakistani wrestlers unfailingly took part in the annual event in Kashmir
This year, the association did not invite Pakistani wrestlers because of ceasefire violations, infiltrations, terror attacks and killings of Indian soldiers
If the situation improves, they will be invited next year.