NEW DELHI - Sri Lankan cricketers have been barred from playing in Chennai after Indian Premier League officials kowtowed on Tuesday to a warning from the state government that they weren't welcome.
The IPL and Board of Control for Cricket in India made the decision after the chief minister of Tamil Nadu province said any Sri Lankans who play in the state capital Chennai will "aggravate an already charged atmosphere."
Tamils in the southern state have raged against the treatment of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka.
"The security of all involved in the IPL, whether players, spectators or those working in the stadiums, is of paramount importance to the BCCI," the IPL said in a statement. "The governing council decided that Sri Lankan players will not participate in league matches in Chennai and will advise the nine franchises accordingly."
Chennai is home to the IPL's dominant team, the two-time champion Super Kings, who feature two Sri Lankan players.
But Jayaram Jayalalithaa, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, wrote to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to warn off all Sri Lankan players because people in her state were disturbed by alleged human rights violations and the systematic killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
"The government of Tamil Nadu will permit IPL matches to be held in Tamil Nadu, only if the organizers provide an undertaking that no Sri Lankan players, umpires, officials or support staff would participate in these matches," Jayalalithaa wrote.
Before the IPL decision, Sri Lanka Cricket said it had been monitoring the situation in Tamil Nadu.
"Sri Lanka Cricket has ... received assurances that the BCCI will take all necessary steps to ensure that the players feel safe and action will be taken to ensure that the players' safety is paramount," SLC said in a statement. "BCCI also stated they ... will take necessary action as and when required, to request teams not to bring Sri Lankan players to Tamil Nadu if the situation escalates."
The Chennai Super Kings feature Sri Lankan bowlers Nuwan Kulasekara and Akila Dananjaya.
Eleven other Sri Lankans feature in seven other teams.
Chennai's first home game is on April 6 against Mumbai Indians, who include Lasith Malinga.
Jayalalithaa last month refused to host the Asian Athletics Championships in July as it would feature Sri Lankans.
Tamil Nadu is home to more than 70 million Tamils, who share linguistic, cultural and family ties with the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Tamils, who comprise 18 per cent of Sri Lanka's nearly 20 million people, claim they suffer discrimination from the majority Sinhalese, who control the government and the military.