IPL cheerleaders cause controversy

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NEW DELHI -- Cheerleaders performing at Indian Premier League cricket matches have sparked a morality squabble here.

A Mumbai police official said Friday that league officials will be prosecuted under indecency laws if the cheerleaders are "obscenely" dressed or their act found to be "vulgar" or "indecent."

"The girls are merely artists who perform as per the instructions of organizers," Navi Mumbai police commissioner Ramrao Wagh said.

The debate began Thursday when Mumbai politician Nitin Gadkari said in the state legislature that the "skimpily clad cheerleaders were degrading to women and should be banned." Veteran actor and Member of Parliament Shatrughan Sinha also voiced similar concerns, saying that "people were not watching the games and were being distracted by these dancers," including a squad from the Washington Redskins.

The Washington Redskins group were hired by flamboyant businessman Vijay Mallya for his team the Royal Challengers Bangalore, a trend followed by other IPL teams after last year's T20 World Cup in South Africa, which featured cheerleaders.

League officials did not offer any comment at press time. The newly launched Indian Premiere League airs on Sony Entertainment Television's Set Max channel, which clocked record ratings on its opening weekend.

Major TV news networks have devoted primetime coverage to the cheerleader debate. Veteran advertising executive Alyque Padamsee told CNN-IBN, "Item girls (dancing girls) in Bollywood films wear much less, so what is the hullabaloo about?"

Meanwhile, some foreign cheerleaders, who did not give their names, were quoted in newspapers Thursday as saying that they have faced "lewd gestures and comments" from Indian spectators when they perform at the matches."
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