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Dhyan Chand: India's greatest, with or without the Bharat Ratna

Dhyan Chand: Indias greatest, with or without the Bharat Ratna

Saksham Mishra

Published: 26 Jan 2019 12:05 PM GMT
August 29 is celebrated as the National Sports Day in India every year. But only a few would know the real significance of this date. Actually, it marks the birthday of one of India’s greatest sportspersons Major Dhyan Chand. The President gives away sporting awards such as the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna Award, Dronacharya Award and the Dhyan Chand Award on this day at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. It is quite ironic that an Indian hockey legend who lends his name to one of these prestigious Indian sporting awards is yet to be conferred with the nation’s highest civilian honour. After news of Former President Pranab Mukherjee, Nanaji Deshmukh and Bhupen Hazarika being awarded the Bharat Ratna came in, the wait for the Dhyan Chand supporters has prolonged.

A celebrated career

Known as the wizard of hockey, Dhyan Chand needs no introduction. He was the face of Indian hockey for the earlier part of 1928 to 1964 when India was the world leader in the sport. He helped the nation earn three successive Olympic gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936. Originally known as Dhyan Singh, he came to be known as Chand as he used to practice for hours under the light of the moon after serving his duty hours for the Indian Army.
Also read: Major Dhyan Chand and the country’s oldest Hockey tournament
Legend has it that the Indian hockey team, led by the dynamic Dhyan Chand, refused to bow down to Fuhrer Adolf Hitler during the 1936 Berlin Olympics; the USA being the only other team to do so. Following India’s dominating 8–1 over Germany in the final, Hitler offered Chand a senior post in the German Army but he declined the proposal. After the match, the residents of Vienna built a statue of the wizard which depicts four hands and sticks, signifying the demi-god stature of the man.

Indifferent attitude of the government

When it comes to bestowing the Bharat Ratna upon him, the attitude of the Government of India has been rather indifferent. Despite being nominated by the Sports ministry for the award for as many as four times, both the UPA and the NDA government have lent a deaf ear to the demands. In fact, even after the rules were amended to make sportspersons eligible for the award, cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar was chosen for the honour shortly after he hung his boots. Now, without getting into the debate of who out of Tendulkar and Dhyan Chand has done bigger service to the country – as doing so would mean undermining the efforts of both legends – let’s try to think of the logic behind the call. Assuming that the contribution of both Sachin and Dhyan Chand was equivalent, Chand should have been the first Indian sportsperson to receive the Bharat Ratna on the grounds of seniority. Expressing his disappointment over the decision, ex-Indian Hockey captain Sandeep Singh had said,
“Hockey has brought India pride many times. It’s the third largest sports in the world. The sports which are on number one and two
spot don’t even have a history in India. Secondly, if we don’t want to recognize it as the national game then we also shouldn’t celebrate August 28, hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand’s birth anniversary, as National Sports Day in India.” “It’s a shame that a person who has done India proud in so many occasions hasn’t been given the highest honour of the country, yet.”

An anticlimactic demise

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp5BIHbZJwU During his last days, when Dhyan Chand needed his country the most – the same country which he had helped win laurels by giving his blood and sweat – India gave him a cold shoulder. With no financial support, the legend spent his last days in the general ward of AIIMS, fighting a losing battle with liver cancer.
"Why are we begging for the award for Dadda (Dhyan Chand). He should have been the first to get it. Whether he gets it or not, the cult of Dhyan Chand will remain forever,"
former India hockey coach AK Bansal had said while speaking during one of the panel discussions held on National Sports Day. It is quite interesting to draw a parallel here that the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi never got a Nobel Prize. Despite that, he remains to be revered far more than most Nobel laureates across the world. On the same lines, if Dhyan Chand is not conferred with the Bharat Ratna, whose loss is it?
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