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India's Nationalists Want Cricket Ban on Australians over Students Attacks

Call comes as Hindu nationalists continue to voice their anger over several assaults on young Indian expatriates in Sydney and Melbourne over the past year

There are concerns about the safety of Australian cricket players competing in the Indian Premier League after threats from fundamentalist Hindus. The Shiv Sena group wants India's cricket officials to bar Australians following a string of violent attacks on Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne.

Shiv Sena threatens to disrupt matches if the Indian Premier League does not ban Australian cricket players from the competition, which starts in March.

The Hindu nationalists are angry over a several assaults on young Indian expatriates in Sydney and Melbourne over the past year.

The attacks have infuriated sections of India's political establishment and the media, which accuse Australian authorities of not doing enough to protect foreign students.

Shiv Sena's power base is in the India's richest state Maharashtra. Several matches in the Indian Premier League competition will be played in the state capital, Mumbai.

Political analysts say the party's threats to disrupt games are serious and will need to be carefully addressed by Indian authorities. Shiv Sena has disrupted cricket matches in the past.

In Australia, cricket officials say they will provide security advice to players heading to India.

Peter Young is a spokesman for the sport's governing body, Cricket Australia. He says it is unfortunate that cricket has been caught up in a political argument.

"Cricket should be used as a bridge between diverse cultures," Young said. "It has been very, very successful working to bring diverse cultures together and it is a shame that is not acknowledged and it is a shame that everybody is not getting behind cricket to try to use it as one of the tools to help soothe the feelings in Melbourne."

While Australian police say that some of the assaults on Indian students were hate crimes, they say most simply were the work of opportunistic criminals.

The controversy over the attacks has strained relations between Canberra and New Delhi. It is hurting Australia's lucrative education industry, too. Applications from Indian students have fallen sharply as a result of the violence.