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Hockey National Game of India Gandhi father of Nat (8/3/2012)
--K. Arumugam
Is hockey National Game of India? Is Gandhi Father of the Nation?

A freak inquiry by a student with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, has opened the India’s worst kept secret, and with that opened a wound that had been bleeding hockey and paining the Indian society.

Is hockey our national game? If so, what is the proof? This was the question. Government has said that there is no proof.

What could be the proof to state the obvious.

Mahatma Gandhi, the face and spirit of India’s freedom movement, is’ Father of the Nation’. If tomorrow a student files query under Right to Information with the Home Ministry and ask for proof, the ministry would have said exactly what the Sports ministry said.

There is no proof, legality as to Gandhi is our father of nation.

What the Ministry has said is what is known to us. India has National Animal, National Bird and many more on the lines. These are mentioned in the Constitution of India which it adopted in 1952. Hockey is not certainly in the book of constitution.

This has been a flaw. When Dhanukodi Adithan, then sports minister, came to Constitution Club to release my book ‘Great Indian Olympians’ (co-author Gulu Ezekiel), I gave him an appeal letter as to make efforts to declare officially hockey our national game. It was in 2000.

Two years later, Umar Bharti, who succeeded Adithan, came to the same club to release my first international hockey year book, ‘Castrol Hockey Year book 2002’.

The then IHF President KPS Gill, Women Hockey player Sita Gossein and World cup hero Ajit Pal Singh were present on the occasion. During my speech I mentioned the lacunae that hockey is not legally a national game and as such it should be declared following all codal formalities. I also submitted a detailed 3-page memorandum, seeking legal sanction.

She, in her reply speech, she took my Memorandum seriously, and wondered why it is not done so far. She even queried whether brought this to the notice of any other ministers in the past.

Quoting her effort to rename National stadium into Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, she said: “I will take up this issue with Arjun Jaitley Ji. I don’t know how many years I will be minister, but I assure you which ever ministry I will be, I will pursue this issue".

She also instructed her Personal Secretary to speed up the process to do so.

Nothing happened thereafter. The point I wish to drive home is, this was one aspect which was never pursued by the Federation, Society or Government to legally declare Hockey Is our National sport.

Malfeance at its best.

So, now at a time that Indian hockey is at a bad shape with two consecutive defeats, the debate on hockey its legal status could not have come in a wrong time. Raking up the issue now even send a wrong message, as if to relate it to hockey’s dwindling popularity.

We, Indians have a habit of messing up issues. Now various claimants will come up for getting the ‘vacant’ spot of National Game.

Not long ago, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi wanted to change the national game from hockey to cricket, and a public demonstration at Amritsar was held to protest such views.

A country that goes any extent to please cricketers – Rajya Sabha seat to active player Sachin Tendulkar for instance – anything can happen.

But what should not be lost sight of is why and how hockey came to be indentified as our national game and the historicity that goes behind it.

Its popular choice of a nation. It’s a well-entrenched emotion of a country. It has been evolved over time and phase, not an instant feeling or a sweeping step.

Gandhi is father of the Nation. Constitution or any legal body need not say so, endorse so.

Hockey is India's national game, notwithstanding what's its legal standing in any book.

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