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Milkha, Bishen join online petition against FIBA’s patka ban

Sports personalities Milkha Singh and Bishen Singh Bedi have joined hands with Kalgidhar Society to launch an online petition to protest against discriminatory policy against Sikh basketball players wearing patkas.

Launched July 26 on Change.org (http://change.org/letsikhsplay), the petition is addressed to International Basketball Federation (FIBA). It has been supported by more than 40,000 persons so far and will be forwarded to FIBA Aug 25 for consideration by its governing board in Spain Aug 27-28.

Notably, two Indian Sikh players, Amarpal and Amjyot Singh, were asked to remove their patka to continue playing for India in the Asia Cup Championship at Wuhan in China July 12.

Referees asserted that wearing patkas during play violated a FIBA rule stating: “Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players”.

The same treatment was meted out to Anmol Singh who was representing India at the 23rd FIBA Asia U-18 championship at Doha in Qatar Aug 19.

Kalgidhar Society’s spokesperson Ravinderpal Singh Kohli stated: “The response to our online petition is overwhelming and we have, so far, crossed the 40,000 mark. We are getting support from all sections of the society irrespective of caste and creed.”

“Besides sportspersons, Indian Idol Devender Pal Singh, singers Yo Yo Honey Singh, Gurdas Mann and Harshdeep Kaur, actor and politician Gul Panag, actor Jaaved Jaaferi, actor Diljit Dosanjh, comedian Nick Duggal, lawyer and filmmaker Valarie Kaur, musician Jazzy B and hundreds of other prominent persons and sports lovers have supported the online petition on Change.org. FIBA’s policies should be more sensitive to people’s faith.”

Simultaneously, a coalition of US lawmakers Aug 19, urged FIBA to end its discriminatory policy against Sikh basketball players.

In a letter to FIBA president Yvan Mainini, 21 Congress members led by Democrat Ami Bera, the lone Indian-American Congressman, and Joe Crowley, a former chair of the India caucus, took up the Sikh players cause.

“There is no evidence showing that a turban has been dangerous during basketball games or other popular sports events,” they wrote.

“In fact, there are many examples of Sikhs who have safely competed in basketball at many levels with their articles of faith intact.”

Other sports leagues, such as Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also allow athletes wearing turbans to participate, the US lawmakers noted.

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