Hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand's son Ashok Kumar's application to the sports ministry to consider his father's candidature for the country's highest civilian honour had been approved long before Sachin Tendulkar was even discussed as a candidate for the prestigious Bharat Ratna.
Yesterday, moments after Tendulkar received the award from President of India, Pranab Mukherjee at the plush Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, a few hundred miles away in Bhopal's modest South TT Nagar, Kumar gave up all hope of his father being posthumously considered for the same recognition.
"There's no point now. There is no hope of my father getting the Bharat Ratna. Even if he had to get it, he should have been the first sportsman to get it. He is in no way second to any sportsman in India," roared Kumar over the phone, as he poured his heart out to MiD DAY.
"My father helped India reign in the world of hockey at a time when the country was still bound by slavery. India were hockey Olympic champions six times on the trot between 1928 and 1956 and thrice therein (Amsterdam 1928, Los Angeles 1932 and Berlin 1936) my father was the architect of this glory.
Yet, the current government continues to undermine his achievements. I am very angry and sad today," said Kumar, a four-time hockey World Cupper himself, who scored the all-important winner in the final against Pakistan in Malaysia (1975) to clinch what remains India's only World Cup title till date.
The 63-year-old double Olympian further stressed on the embarrassment he and his family have had to endure as they kept knocking on the government's door pleading for Dhyan Chand to be honoured with the Bharat Ratna.
"There have been dharnas, morchas and even a hunger strike recently to urge the government to consider Babuji for the Bharat Ratna, but it has evoked no response from the authorities. I wonder what else my family, friends and well-wishers of hockey will have to go through next if we are to push further for the award.
I think there is no point pushing for it any more," added Kumar, who is even more agitated since his application for the award was approved by Union sports minister Jitendra Singh and even recommended last year.
"When the government last year changed the nomination criteria for Bharat Ratna to include sportspersons, we were told to apply to the Sports Ministry, which we did. Then, in July, sports minister Jitendra Singh acceded to our request and forwarded the application to the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) and said that he expected his recommendation to be accepted and that Babuji should get the award because no other candidate from the sports fraternity was in the fray.
The matter was even discussed in Parliament, but to no avail. Then in November, suddenly Sachin Tendulkar's name cropped up and within a couple of months, he received the award. I have nothing against Tendulkar and his achievements, but this does not make Babuji's achievements any less. My father is India's first sports hero and will remain that even if the government refuses to recognise him as a Bharat Ratna," Kumar signed off.