Indian basketball team's Sikh players being forced to remove turbans sparks outrage

Jul 23, 2014, 22:24 IST |

Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal asks International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take up the issue of Indian basketball players being barred from wearing turbans at the 5th FIBA Asia Cup held in China

New Delhi:, Sports Ministry today expressed "shock and outrage" over the incident of two Sikh players being asked to remove their turbans at the recently-concluded Fiba Asia Cup in China and sought details from the BFI, which has already taken up the matter with the international body.

"We have written to them and are awaiting their response. Once we get the response, we will act accordingly," a Basketball Federation of India spokesperson told PTI.

Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the ministry has asked the IOC to issue necessary instructions to international sports federations, so that such incidents are not repeated.

"We are shocked and outraged. Wearing a turban does not affect fair play and has not been objected to in international sports championships. Therefore, the latest incident has surprised and shocked us. We have spoken to BFI and sought a detailed report from them," Sonowal said.

"We have also asked International Olympic Committee to issue necessary guidelines/instructions to international sports federations so that such incidents do not take place again. Our Government respects all religion and will do everything to ensure that their sentiments do not get hurt," he added.

Two Sikh players -- Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh -- were stopped from entering the court minutes before India were to open their campaign against Japan on July 12 at Fiba Asia Cup in Wuhan and were asked to remove their turbans.

The officials of the International Basketball Federation told the players that they were not allowed to play with their turbans on as it was in violation of the rules.

"There is a Annual General Assembly of the FIBA Asia at Doha tomorrow and BFI senior vice-president K Govindraj will be attending the meeting and would be taking up the matter with them. And from there on, we will be going forward," the BFI spokesperson said.

The two players initially did not figure in the starting five and it was only after they removed their turbans, that they were they allowed to play in the first quarter. Both of them were forced to play the remaining six games of the tournament without wearing their turbans.

According to Article 4.4.2 of Fiba's rules, it states: 1. Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players; 2. Headgear, hair accessories and jewellery are not permitted. Amjyot, who is an integral part of the Indian team, said such instructions were never issues before.

"It was very humiliating for us when we were asked to remove our turbans. We have always played with our turbans on and even during the practice," said Amjyot.

While Amritpal added: "Every time if we are asked to remove the turbans, it would be an insult to our religion."

The incident has provoked strong reactions from the sporting fraternity with legendary athlete Milkha Singh terming it as a "serious matter".

"I regret it. It should not have happened. Wherever in the world I have competed during my career, I always wore the turban. And even all the hockey players or any other Sikh player in any other discipline, always wear a turban.

"This is a serious matter. If they had any doubt, they should have checked their turbans with an instrument. I think the BFI should take up the matter with the international body," said Milkha.

Indian Olympic Association vice-president, Tarlochan Singh also expressed anguish over the incident. "This is shocking. This should not have happened because all over the world there is no ban on any head gear. Only in boxing, they don't allow anyone to go into the ring with anything on their head.

"But in basketball there have never been any ban. I think there is some lack of knowledge at the local level. The BFI should write to the Indian Olympic Association and it in turn should write to the international basketball, as this should not be repeated. This is totally uncalled for," he said.

"The Indian ambassador in China should also take notice of it and this mistake should be pointed out to them immediately," Tarlochan insisted.

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