A couple of games at Headingley, Leeds, towards the end of the Cricket World Cup 2019 have seen aircraft flying above the venue with banners tailing them. While one was in favour of justice for Balochistan during the Pakistan-Afghanistan match on June 29, there were many emphasising on ‘free Kashmir’ when India took on Sri Lanka at the same ground on July 6. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sought clarifications from the organisers over the repeated flights above the ground.
While the ICC assured the BCCI that it will not be repeated when India play the semi-final against New Zealand, the local police said they didn’t have the power to stop aerial messaging. No flight was witnessed conveying any sensitive message when Virat Kohli’s team took on the Black Caps at Old Trafford in the first semi-final on Tuesday. The players, fans and organisers kept on looking up at the heavens but it was more because of the relentless downpour that pushed the game into the reserve day which is Wednesday.
The Kiwis batted first after Kane Williamson won the toss and were 211 for 5 when rain interrupted after 46.1 overs. The match will resume from there on the reserve day which is also under rain threats. Coming back to the mysterious aerial messaging, a plane was seen flying over Headingley last Saturday with banners like ‘Justice for Kashmir’ and ‘India stop genocide and free Kashmir’ tailing it on different occasions.
There were also a couple that saw less intense messages like ‘Would you marry me Tamaira?’ and ‘Love cricket, Love Mumtaz, Leeds’ also doing the flight.
PrivateFly, a company that rents out private jets, told the Indian Express that technically and legally, one can charter a private aircraft and fly over regions that are not no-fly zones and Leeds is one such zone. Even Steve Cotter, Leeds District commander, said in a statement by West Yorkshire Police that they didn’t have the power to stop such flight.
Messages did not constitute a criminal offence
“In our democratic society, people have the legal right to protest, and a balance always needs to be struck between that right and the rights and freedoms of others to go about their lawful business. We had no prior knowledge of the initial flyovers on either occasion but when they were brought to our attention, we assessed the content of the messages being free speech that did not constitute any criminal offence,” he was quoted as saying.
Also read – There were too many gentlemen in the team, says Sourav Ganguly over sledging tactics during his playing days
Cotter also spoke to the air traffic control and it confirmed that the flights were within the ambit of law and abided by their regulations for the controlled airspace. He said no assurances were given from their side to the ICC that such flights will be prevented and that they have no legal basis to do so either.
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