Waheguru ji Ka Khalsa,
Waheguru ji Ki Fateh
Even before we could adequately savour the taste of a justifiably-earned victory the opportunity was snatched away from us. We fought a battle with vigour and valour. We won. But why is there so little to cherish the fond memory? Why is the entire Sikh community and its legions of supporters cutting across caste and creed feeling let down today? That too within a couple of days of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) relenting from its adamant stand and granting significant though tentative relief to players. As per FIBA’s announcement on September 17, they can now play with their headgear on for the next two years when the rules will be reevaluated and, in all probability, be validated and ratified.
It was Kalgidhar Society’s global campaign against FIBA’s ban on Sikh players from playing with their turbans on that won the battle for us. It was the result of intense strategies, collaboration with like-minded organizations across the globe, smart use of the social media and effective execution on the ground. But more than anything else it was the support from the community and well-meaning friends. But for you, our online petition against FIBA’s discriminatory rules via change.org would not have elicited support from over 70,000 persons in a short span of time. But for the articulation of their rage by all Indians and many others FIBA would not have understood that turban is a Sikh’s pride. It is his identity and a vital article of his faith. I am pleasantly surprised to find people from non-Sikh communities echoing our sentiments and sensitivities in USA where I am mobilizing support on the turban issue.
The world has indeed become a global village, thanks to the latest developments in communication technology. And technology we did use abundantly to spread our message. Our cause found resonance in many hearts. Thanks to you all!
Of course, it goes without saying that all through the struggle we drew inspiration and sustenance from the blessings of Kalgidhar Society’s head Baba Iqbal Singh. We salute him!
But even before we could start rejoicing over the success, came the blow — stealthily and swiftly. What hurt most was the fact that it came from within. Friends, you will recall that Kalgidhar Society had launched this campaign after Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh, Indian basketball team players, were subjected to racial discrimination by FIBA authorities at Xuhan in China recently. They were made to take off their turbans. We fought the battle not just for the duo but for all Sikhs and others who use different head gears as the mark of their respective faiths.
We were, therefore, shocked to find that Amritpal and Amjyot have chosen to cut their hair and have flown to participate in the Asian Games at the South Korean port of Incheon. That too after the relatively favourable announcement from FIBA. That too after after having hailed the announcement and appearing in news media photographs displaying the victory sign. This is distressful. Our heads hang in shame.
But in keeping with the highest tenets of Sikhism we bear no grudge towards them. It is highly probable that FIBA’s adamant stand and delayed decision may have worn the patience of these two players thin. Also, modern day sport is inextricably linked to monetary rewards and sundry benefits. These are enough to entice the common man.
But Sikhs have always stood out from the common lot, both in India and abroad. Trials and tribulations have brought out the best in them. Wars and battles have spurred them on to new heights of sacrifice and glory. Their enterprise and perseverance in times of severest crises are universally acknowledged. Who knows it better than we in India?
Yet we need to work arduously on some fronts. Let us begin with one. Let us strengthen our moral and spiritual fiber. In today’s consumerist society, we are besieged by allurements galore. Glamour and glitz bedazzle us. Materialism beckons us 24X7. No wonder, many of us fall prey to these temptations. We lose our spiritual moorings. We tend to ignore what our 10 revered Gurus taught us. We overlook what is enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib. We lose our way and get caught in the web of greed and misery.
The time has come to find our way back to the divine realm. Once there, we will automatically overlook worldly inducements. We will be able to see one in all and all in one. Everybody’s sensitivity will be our concern. Others’ pain will be our sorrow too. So will be their joy our source of happiness.
Crises like the one created by FIBA will just not arise. True brotherhood shall prevail.
~ Ravinderpal Singh Kohli