New Delhi: Ashok Kumar, the son of Major Dhyan Chand, on Sunday said that the previous UPA government as well as the current NDA regime have both “failed to understand” his father’s contribution after the hockey wizard’s Bharat Ratna nomination got rejected for the third time.
Ever since the rules were amended adding sports as a category for the Bharat Ratna in 2013, Sachin Tendulkar has been the first and only sportsperson to be conferred with country’s highest civilian honour.
This year, the Bharat Ratna will be conferred to former President Pranab Mukherjee while Jan Sangh leader and social activist Nanaji Deshmukh and music doyen Bhupen Hazarika are being awarded posthumously.
“The whole world recognises his contribution to hockey. His statues have been installed now only in India but in UK and the Netherlands also. I think government, whether it is led by BJP or the Congress, they have failed to understand his stature and contribution to the world of sports,” Kumar, himself an Olympic bronze medallist (1972 Munich), said.
“We are naturally disappointed. Not only us but all the sports lovers wanted Bharat Ratna for him. Government should understand the value of Bharat Ratna and it should not be influenced by politics,” Kumar added.
Chand gave Indian hockey its identity guiding the nation to three Olympic gold medals in 1928 (Amsterdam), 1932 (Los Angeles) and 1936 (Berlin).
The troika of former sports ministers Ajay Maken, Jitendra Singh and Vijay Goel recommended his name for the award.
Many former Olympians also led a protest demanding the Bharat Ratna for him in 2016. More than 80 MPs also demanded the same in 2011.
Olympian and Kumar’s one-time teammate Aslam Sher Khan said that ideally he should have been the first to get this award .
“It is an irony that we have stadiums in his name, national sports awards are given on his birth anniversary but government did not confer him with Bharat Ratna.
“In sports Hockey, with the glorious past, and in hockey Dhyan Chand deserved the first Bharat Ratna. I don’t understand why governments have lent a deaf ears to this genuine demand,” Khan said.
Khan also said that it was even more disappointing that Chand was snubbed at a time when an Olympic medallist, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, is the country’s sports minister.
“Our sports minister himself is a silver medallist in an Olympic sport. When we talk about Olympics it reminds [us of] the unprecedented eight gold medals in hockey. Despite having him as a sports minister, we have to demand Bharat Ratna for one of our most beloved Olympic legend,” Khan added.
Another distinguished former national captain Dilip Tirkey has said that the government should respect the sentiments of the sports fraternity.
“It’s sad that till now we are waiting. Not only Dhyan Chand but hockey has produced legends like Balbir Singh Sr [the only triple gold medallist apart from Chand], KD Singh Babu and many more who also deserve this honour. Government should not ignore the sentiments of not only sports fraternity but the whole country,” said the former MP.