As the debate on whether India should continue sporting ties with Pakistan rages on, India’s star boxer Vijender Singh’s view merits attention.
The boxer has experienced patriotism from close quarters, both in the ring as well as at home, considering his elder brother Manoj fought the Kargil war in 1999 as a Jawan.
Members of the Shiv Sena on Sunday interrupted the practice session of Mumbai Magicians, one of the franchises of the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL), at the Mumbai Hockey Stadium to protest the presence of four Pakistani players in the team.
Angered by the recent killing of Indian soldiers across the border by the Pakistanis, the Sena have warned of more protests if the Pakistani hockey players are permitted to play.
Vijender felt this was unfortunate. “We Indians are driven strongly by emotions, so I can understand the recent uproar over Pakistani hockey players featuring in the HIL. But sport has nothing to do with politics and vice versa, so I don’t believe that sporting ties between the two countries should suffer,” the 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medal-winning pugilist told MiD DAY from Patiala yesterday, where he is attending a national camp in preparation for a training-cum-competition fixture in Europe next month.
‘They are just like us’
Vijender’s opinion matters, considering he and his family have spent many a sleepless night at home in the tiny village of Kaluwas in Haryana’s Bhiwani district while his elder brother Manoj (once a promising boxer), represented the 18 Grenadiers and served at the border between 1998 and 2008. “When Manoj fought in the Kargil war (1999), I was very scared for his safety, and angry about our neighbours’ hostility. But later, after touring Pakistan thrice, I realised that the people of that country are not bad. They are just like us. It’s dirty politics at the highest level that leads to all these cross-border issues. Just as a sportsperson is told by his coach to go out there and win, an army jawan also obeys orders from his superior or top government authorities. What is happening at the LOC right now is wrong and I condemn it, but why blame the jawan or the Pakistani people for this?” asked the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games gold medallist.
The Deputy Superintendent of Haryana Police called for a change in mindset of those advocating the end of Indo-Pak sporting relations. “If I am told to fight a Pakistani in the ring, while my brother is doing the same on the border, instead of resenting the situation, I would take it up as a challenge and give it my all to win. I’d want my brother to do so too. And if Manoj or myself or even both of us lost, so be it. There is no place for emotion in these issues. Sport toh jodta hai, jung todta hai, toh sportsmen se kaisi naraazgi (sport unites while war divides, so why be upset with sportsmen?” Vijender signed off.