NEW DELHI: The outrage in the country over the killing of two Indian jawans at the LoC by Pakistani troops spilled on to the hockey arena with Hockey India deciding to send back nine Pakistani players home.
The players who are going back are: Fareed Ahmed, Imran Butt, Mahmood Rashid and Muhammad Tousiq (all Mumbai Magicians); Muhammad Rizwan Sr. and Muhammad Rizwan Jr. (Delhi Waveriders); Muhammad Irfan and Shafqat Rasool (Ranchi Rhinos); and Kashif Shah (Jaypee Punjab Warriors).
"The decision was made in consultation with the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) and International Hockey Federation (FIH)," HIL chairman Narinder Batra said.
Earlier, Mumbai Magicians were looking at replacing Pakistan's Fareed Ahmed, Imran Butt, Mahmood Rashid and Muhammad Tousiq with players from Australia and New Zealand.
"Keeping the public sentiment in mind, we have decided to send the players back to Pakistan. This is a decision we have taken on our own, we have not received any official communication from the league organisers," Mumbai Magicians owner Amit Burman told IANS.
"As their replacements, we have already started talking to some of the Australian and New Zealand players," he added.
Overall, nine Pakistanis were bought at the HIL auction last month.
The IPL-style event faced hostility from hardline right-wing Shiv Sena party over Pakistani players competing in the league.
Four soldiers were killed last week in the worst outbreak of violence along the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir, since the nuclear-armed neighbours agreed to a ceasefire in 2003.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since Independence in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.
Ties were soured again in 2008 when gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai in a three-day rampage with India blaming a Pakistani militant group for the massacre.
Shiv Sena, who dug up the Wankhede Stadium pitch in 1991 on the eve of a test match between the two countries, called for the players' visas be cancelled.
"We will not allow Pakistani players or artists to perform here," Rahul Narvekar, a spokesperson for the Hindu right-wing party, told Reuters.
"Pakistan is involved in militant attacks on India and you are letting them make money in India... this is injustice to the martyrs who have died in these attacks."
The city was also omitted as a venue last month when Pakistan toured India for its first bilateral cricket series in seven years.
Mumbai is scheduled to hold its first HIL match on Sunday but Rathor said that the issue needed to be discussed at the highest level of administration before they could proceed.
"Yesterday was only a practice session, so we could manage it. But what will we do if such things happen when the whole stadium is packed with spectators?" Rathor added.
"It is not only a question for the players but it has to deal with the safety and security of the crowd also.
"It's always a problem in Mumbai if you are holding matches which have Pakistan players. I was speaking to the police and they also have their own concerns." (Agencies)