New Delhi: A group of former Indian hockey players gathered at Jantar Mantar on Sunday in a bid to demand the Bharat Ratna for hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand where world renowned sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik carved out a sand art for the hockey wizard.
Former national hockey captain and Member of Parliament Dilip Tirkey stated that Dhyan Chand should get the award at the earliest. “We have been trying to get the honour for the man who is acknowledged for his greatness as a sportsman. It’s sad that we are still demanding for an honour which he should have got long back,” said Tirkey.
Former hockey players like Zafar Iqbal, MK Kaushik, Ajitpal Singh, Mohammad Riaz and Mukesh Kumar were also present at the venue to put forward their demand for the hockey wizard whose birthday, celebrated in India as ‘National Sports Day’ happens on Monday.
Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik carved out a sand art for the hockey great. “Dhyan Chand’s contribution to Indian hockey is immense. He made India famous at a time when the country needed recognition. I am sure the Prime Minister will take a step and recognize Chand’s contribution for the country,” said Pattnaik.
“I don’t understand why we have to ask for this, but if have to ask, we will. In the past, Dhyan Chand’s name was nominated for the Bharat Ratna but that file was pushed under the carpet and we all know whose name was recommended in place of him,” said former player Zafar Iqbal. Incidentally Zafar Iqbal was the captain of the team which won India’s last hockey gold at the 1980 Olympic games.
On Sachin Tendulkar getting the recognition ahead of him, captain of the Indian team who won the 1975 hockey world cup Ajitpal Singh said, “I don’t want to compare any sportsperson with him. Dhyan Chand played in 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.”
Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Kumar who was also present at the venue said it is sad that hockey fraternity has been forced to repeatedly remind the government. “Countless people in the country have picked up the game after being inspired by him and gone on to bring laurels for India. 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,” he said.
Dhyan Chand won three Olympic gold medals in hockey for India at 1928, 1932 and 1936 games. His name had been suggested for India’s highest civilian honour by the sports ministry three years ago.
This article first appeared in The Times of India, Delhi Edition issue dated 29.08.2016