Sunday, May 27, 2007

Report: Indian police investigate letter by Maoist rebels threatening cricket stars

Report: Indian police investigate letter by Maoist rebels threatening cricket stars

The Associated Press
Published: May 27, 2007


NEW DELHI: Police are investigating a letter allegedly written by Maoist rebels threatening to kill two of India's top cricketers because they represent the "elite class," a newspaper reported Sunday.

The letter singles out captain of the Indian team Rahul Dravid and wicketkeeper Mahendra Dhoni, as well as three top cricket officials, and was found Friday during a police raid on a rebel hideout in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh, the Hindustan Times reported.

The handwritten letter said a group of rebels from Chhattisgarh and neighboring Jharkand state had decided to kill the cricketers, and that rebels had tracked the movements of Dhoni in his hometown of Ranchi, Jharkand's capital, the paper said.

The threatened officials were Sharad Pawar, president of India's cricket board and federal agriculture minister, and Niranjan Shah and Rajiv Shukla, both well-known officials of the cricket board, it said.

"All five are promoting cricket, a sport of the elite class, and also leading a luxurious life at the expense of the hard-earned money of the common man," the letter said, according to the newspaper.
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Madhu Koda, the chief minister of Jharkand, said the letter was being taken seriously.

"But before providing more security to Dhoni, the government will like its agencies to find out whether the letter is genuine," Koda said, according to the report.

The Maoist rebels have fought a decades-long insurgency out of India's impoverished forest communities and farming villages largely left out of the country's economic boom.

The insurgency has spread across 13 of India's 28 states and the rebels are believed to have about 6,000 fighters in an increasingly well-armed force.

The conflict has become steadily more brutal over the past two years.

In March, Maoists killed at least 49 police officers in Chhattisgarh weeks after they killed Sunil Mahato, a prominent lawmaker in Jharkand.

The year before, they killed at least 50 people in Chhattisgarh when they set off land mines under four trucks carrying civilians returning from a rally held by an anti-Maoist militia state.

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