Welcoming the new move by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to allow Sikh players to wear head coverings for a two-year test period, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) on Wednesday said that it is sure the temporary ruling will soon become permanent.
In a meeting held over the weekend, basketball's world governing body announced that a two-year test phase has been put into place in which exceptions for headgear will be allowed under some circumstances.
"FIBA has allowed players to wear head coverings in its 3-on-3 competitions unless it presents a direct threat to the safety of players on the court. After evaluation of the rule in 2015, it will be decided whether it will become a permanent rule change post the 2016 Olympics and we are sure that this will happen," BFI joint secretary Ashok Rangeen said.
Though many Sikh organisations have said that the latest ruling 'falls short' of expectations, the BFI feels that the international body's intentions are in the right place.
"The newly-elected board of FIBA has addressed this issue in its first meeting and that in itself is a signal that the officials are looking to help out the Sikh, Muslim and orthodox Jew players, who are required a head covering while playing the game," said Rangeen.
In a shocking move during the fifth FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, China two Sikh players - Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh - were asked to remove their turbans before the start of the match on July 12. They were stopped from entering the court moments before India were to open their campaign against Japan.
In response many Sikh organisations ran a successful '#LetSikhsPlay social media campaign', urging the international basketball federation to not bar Sikh players due to their religious head covering.
A number of renowned personalities, including Daler Mehndi and Milkha Singh also supported the campaign and urged FIBA to re-consider it's headgear policies and now Indian Olympic Association (IOA) vice-president Tarlochan Singh welcomes the new development.
"I welcome the new move by FIBA. It comes as a great relief for all the Sikh players, who are playing the game at the top level. I am very sure that FIBA will allow Sikh's to wear the turbans and dastaars even after the testing period," said Singh.
In the upcoming Asian Games starting September 19, the Indian basketball team will take court with the old rulings but Rangeen insists that the China incident will not be repeated.
"In the Asian Games, the Sikh players will continue to tie a 'juda' and then wrap it with a piece of cloth because at the moment the no-headgear rule is in place. But according to the Sikh community the head should not be naked and that will not happen in Incheon," said Rangeen.
"Many Islamic countries have also not sending their teams to the Aisan Games due to their religious restrictions. It is mandatory for Muslim girls to cover their legs and cover their head with a scarf or 'hijab', so they are also awaiting a relaxation in the current rules to allow them taking part in international events. The new board was elected on August 29 and in their first meeting on September 13 they raised this issue on priority basis, so we should not question their intentions rather I am positive about the new ruling," he added.
The ad-hoc rule will be judged on three counts and the BFI is sure that it will stand the test and become temporary after the 2016 Olympics.
"One, the headgear should not be dangerous to the individual and to the players. Two, it should not be a threat to anybody on court and three, the legal and technical committee should pass the rules to make them permanent. And I am sure that the 'pagdi' or any other headgear will pass with flying colours," reiterated Rangeen.