Indians Banned From Wearing Turbans in Asia Cup Basketball

Match officials asked two Sikh players to remove their turbans before stepping onto the court.

Updated: July 23, 2014 17:53 IST
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Amjyot Singh India Basketball
A file photo of Indian basketball player Amjyot Singh.

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Indian basketball players were subjected to some racial discrimination and humiliation when the Sikh members of the team playing in Asia Cup in Wuhan, China, were prevented from wearing turbans. According to a report, two Sikh players - Amritpal Singh and Amyjot Singh - were asked to remove their turbans before India's match against Japan on July 12. India lost their opening match 75-52. (India Lose in Quarters)

Match officials informed the players that they were breaking international basketball federation (FIBA) rules by wearing turbans. Article 4.4.2 of the rules states: "Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players." It further says: "Headgear, hair accessories and jewellery are not permitted."

A request by the India's American coach Scott Fleming fell on deaf ears. Only after removing their turbans, the players were allowed on court. Amritpal scored 15 points against the Japanese, reports the Times of India.

"We have always played in turbans, even in last year's Asian Championship in Manila and also the recently held Lusofonia Games in Goa," 23-year-old Amritpal said.

The 22-year-old Amjyot said: "Wearing turban is a part of me. When they told us we couldn't play with one it felt very awkward. But for the team we decided to play without turbans," he said.

"I am personally against a rule that infringes on someone's religious beliefs. A headgear does not cause any harm to others," coach Fleming said.

Interestingly, Basketball Federation of India president RS Gill, himself a Sikh, said he was unaware of the incident. It's been two weeks the tournament has finished.

"This is a very serious issue. I will seek the manager's report immediately and will lodge a strong protest with the governing body, both Fiba Asia and World. I will also follow it up with the ministry of sports and see to it that this never happens again," Gill told Times.

On Wednesday, the sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal said in a statement: "We are shocked and outraged. We have spoken to BFI and sought a detailed report from them. We have also asked International Olympic Committee to issue necessary guidelines/instructions to international sports federations so that such incidents do not take place again."

Ranked 11th in Asia and 61st in the world, India finished seventh in the Asia Cup after swamping Singapore 85-36 in a placing's match. India had shocked hosts and Asia No.1 China 65-58. They lost to Iran in their last league game before going down to Philippines the quarters.

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