The Tribune – Gave up international debut for faith, Sikh wrestler has no regrets

G S Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 08 August 2018. A Tarn Taran-based wrestler, Jaskawarbir Singh Gill, could not represent India in an international men’s freestyle wrestling tournament as he didn’t agree to remove his ‘patka’ (a small piece of cloth worn by Sikhs, especially sportspersons).

It was Gill’s debut in the international arena as he was part of the India team for the Yasar Dogu Memorial Tournament, organised under the umbrella of United World Wrestling (UWW), in Istanbul, Turkey, between July 27 and 29, when this incident happened.

The Ministry of External Affairs has taken cognisance of the instance and a report has been sought from the Indian Ambassador to Turkey.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed this while replying to the tweet of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday.

According to international wrestling rules, the players are allowed to wear only that headgear which doesn’t harm opponent during the bout.

It was probably for the first time that a Sikh wrestler supporting fully grown hair was taking part in an international wrestling tournament.

Recipient of a gold medal in the all-India inter-varsity tournament and bronze in the National Games, Gill is employed with the Punjab Armed Police. He is a son of Salwinder Singh, alias Shinda Pehalwan, an Asian gold medallist in wrestling.

Born on 15 July, 1993, Gill was to compete against a Ukranian wrestler under the 125-kg category when the organisers objected to his wearing the ‘patka’.

Besides Gill, the other Indian team delegates made lots of requests to the organisers to allow him compete while wearing a ‘patka’, which was his religious bindings, but in vain.

“The organisers asked me to remove my ‘patka’ and tie my long hair as the women competitors do, but I chose to reject this offensive proposal and quit the tournament. I can sacrifice scores of such tournaments for my religious sentiments. I have participated in various national tournaments and faced no problems,” he said.

Chief wrestling coach of India Jagminder Singh, who accompanied the team, said it had been an unfortunate and a lone instance that came across in his career since 1973.

He also recalled an instance in Canada where a Sikh with fully grown hair was allowed to compete in a tournament a few years ago, but it failed to convince the organisers in Turkey and they didn’t deviate from the prescribed norms of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).

Under the rules, there have been no guidelines for men having long hair.

“We have Sikh wrestlers in our teams, but all are with shorn hair and clean shaven. With exception to girls who are allowed to tie their hair with a rubber band that could not harm the opponent, norms are silent about the men supporting long hair.

The organisers insisted him to tie his hair as the girls do, but he chose not to compete,” he said.

However, Jagminder Singh said since it was a first case, the Wrestling Federation of India should take up the matter with the WWF for amending the rules to avoid such an embarrassment in future.

Sushma’s reply to Sukhbir’s tweet

“Sukhbir ji – I have asked for a report from our Ambassador in Turkey” was the reply by Sushma Swaraj to Sukhbir Badal’s tweet: “I just came to know that the United World Wrestling association has not received any complaint from the Indian government about the discrimination faced by Jaskawar Gill in #Istanbul. I urge @SushmaSwaraj ji & Indian Wrestling Federation to take up the issue with the Turkish govt.”


The Tribune – Opposition’s unity stumps Congress

Ruchika M Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 22 June 2017. Bitter political rivals Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) joined hands in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha today after the AAP MLAs were thrown out by marshals even as turbans of some MLAs were flung into the air.

The unexpected bonhomie stumped the treasury benches, with the CM alluding to a collusion between the two.

Akali MLAs literally hand-held the AAP MLA in their fight against the “tyranny of the treasury benches unleashed by the Congress in cohoots with the Speaker”.

Not only did SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal lead a walkout when AAP MLAs were being evicted, he and his MLAs later led the AAP MLAs back inside the House, pushing away the watch and ward staff. This, even as a dazed CM and Speaker looked on.

The SAD-BJP MLAs were annoyed at the Speaker rejecting their plea for tabling a privilege motion against Finance Minister Manpreet Badal and instead accepting a privilege motion against Akali MLA Pawan Kumar Tinu for his “unparliamentary” language against a minister yesterday.

Even as the Speaker adjourned the proceedings, an unfazed Sukhbir stayed on, refusing to be provoked by Congress MLAs. By this time, the Speaker had announced that all AAP MLAs be removed. The SAD-BJP objected to each AAP MLA being lifted and thrown out by four-five marshals. Akali MLA Tinu too was manhandled as he opposed the marshals.

Sukhbir objected to the use of force against two women MLAs, but to no avail. At this juncture, Bikram Majithia returned to the House with the turban of AAP MLA Manjit Singh Bilaspur and placed it on the table.

The Speaker urged the MLAs to let the House function and the CM to speak. But Sukhbir insisted that the turban of a Gursikh was more important than any House announcement. Majithia said the Punjab Vidhan Sabha owed its existence to the turban (referring to the Punjabi Suba movement).

As the Akalis raised slogans of “death of democracy at the hands of the Speaker”, the latter ordered the watch and ward staff to evict all SAD-BJP MLAs from the House. But the MLAs walked out on their own.

Later, Sukhbir held a press conference where he raised the issue of three women MLAs of AAP, Baljinder Kaur, Rupinder Kaur and Sarabjit Kaur Manuke, being manhandled. He said they would launch an agitation for the removal of the Speaker for his “bias” against the Opposition.