Security issues cancel Santosh Trophy in Kashmir

India's national Santosh Trophy football tournament set to return this month to terrorist-disrupted Kashmir state after nearly three decades has finally been cancelled because of a lack of security, officials said. The event was scheduled to be held in Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar for the first time since 1978, almost a decade before Islamist separatists launched a deadly revolt in the region. “The tournament has been postponed until May next year,” Kashmir’s Sports Minister Babu Singh told AFP. “We were prepared in all respects but the only irritant was a shortage of security force personnel to guard the event,” he said.

Insufficient troops were available to guard the event, after tens of thousands of security forces were diverted to a Hindu pilgrimage in the Himalayan Kashmir mountains. The annual pilgrimage, which started on 1 July and lasts two months, has been targeted by terrorists in the past. Troops number about 500,000 in Kashmir for a state of 10 million people. “The troops are already stretched out due to the pilgrimage,” Singh said.

The tournament, held in a different state each year, and pitting teams from India’s 29 states against each other, will now not be held at all this year. Indian football officials, who visited the region last month to oversee preparations for the tournament, had hoped to spark renewed interest for the sport in the Himalayan state. “I am sure if such a mega event is held here, people would get more involved in football,” said Subrotto Dutta, vice-president of the All India Football Association.