Ex-hockey legends revive demand for awarding Dhyan Chand with Bharat Ratna
On the eve of Major Dhyan Chand’s birthday, former greats of hockey on Sunday revived their longstanding demand for the Bharat Ratna to be awarded to late hockey legend Dhyan Chand with many saying that the honour should have gone to the “wizard” ahead of cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar.
New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar saw former captains Ajit Pal Singh, Zafar Iqbal, Dilip Tirkey and Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Kumar gathered with other former players who sat in the hope that the government will fulfil their demand in the future and confer the nation’s highest honour to the legend who guided India to three Olympic gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936.
Zafar Iqbal told PTI, “We have all gathered here in the hope that dada Dhyan Chand gets the honour which is long overdue. But we can only hope that he gets it. It is the political will that matters. The same was the case when Sachin Tendulkar was conferred with the honour (in 2014). It makes no difference to his stature, whether dada (Dhyan Chand) gets the award or not. But he should get it as he is most deserving for the recognition.”
The insistence that the honour be awarded to Dhyan Chand has resurfaced after the ‘wizard’ had missed out on the honour in 2013 when Tendulkar was chosen for the country’s highest civilian honour. The sports and home ministry had recommended Dhyan Chand’s name for Bharat Ratna but it did not prove to be enough to get him the honour when the UPA was in power.
India’s captain in the victory of the 1975 World Cup, Ajit Pal said that Dhyan Chand should have been the first sportsperson to get the honour. He said, “People world over know him. He is known as a wizard of hockey and we have heard so many stories about him. If any sportsperson deserves the honour, it is him. He should have been the first one to get it. He played and won gold medals when India used to travel on bullock carts, there was extreme poverty. His sacrifice for the game is huge. The earlier governments erred in not giving him the award. I hope this government rectifies this mistake.”
Pal also added that he does not want to compare Dhyan Chand and Tendulkar. He added, “I don’t want to compare any sportsperson with him. Dhyan Chand played when we were still under British rule. The rewards that you see nowadays for winning medals were not there at that time. It was an era where one played for the applause and not for monetary benefits because there were none. I hope he is not disrespected anymore and gets what is long overdue.”
Ashok Kumar, the son of Dhyan Chand, said that it is sad that the hockey fraternity has been forced to repeatedly remind the government about his father’s achievements. He said, “He has been a father figure for us in hockey. Countless have picked up the game after being inspired by him and gone on to bring laurels for India. They looked up to the era of 1928, 1932 and 1936 and it is still binding the game. It is not a good feeling that we have all gathered here to demand Bharat Ratna for him. The government should have decided on it long ago.”
Kumar added, “I don’t want to go into who got it before Dhyan Chand Ji. All we care about is that he should be bestowed with the honour. It is long overdue. Hopefully this central government will pay heed to our demand. If they don’t want to give, they should make it clear once and for all. We don’t want to be kept in the dark anymore.”
Former Indian captain Tirkey was also present on the occasion and said that the case of Dhyan Chand not getting his due shows a discriminatory attitude towards their sport. He said, “It is sad that we discriminate between sports. It is even more sad that we are demanding an award for him. He played when there was no recognition, no media. All I want to say is that we request the government to do the needful as soon as possible.”
Ashish Ballal, AB Subbaiah and Mohammed Riaz were some of the other former players who were present at the occasion.Published 29 Aug 2016, 18:06 IST