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Gave up int’l debut for faith, Sikh wrestler has no regrets

Amritsar : A Tarn Taran-based wrestler, Jaskawarbir Singh Gill, could not represent India in an international men’s freestyle wrestling tournament as he didn’t agree to remove his ‘patka’ (a small piece of cloth worn by Sikhs, especially sportspersons).
It was Gill’s debut in the international arena as he was part of the India team for the Yasar Dogu Memorial Tournament, organised under the umbrella of United World Wrestling (UWW), in Istanbul, Turkey, between July 27 and 29, when this incident happened. The Ministry of External Affairs has taken cognisance of the instance and a report has been sought from the Indian Ambassador to Turkey.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed this while replying to the tweet of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday.
According to international wrestling rules, the players are allowed to wear only that headgear which doesn’t harm opponent during the bout.
It was probably for the first time that a Sikh wrestler supporting fully grown hair was taking part in an international wrestling tournament.
Recipient of a gold medal in the all-India inter-varsity tournament and bronze in the National Games, Gill is employed with the Punjab Armed Police. He is a son of Salwinder Singh, alias Shinda Pehalwan, an Asian gold medallist in wrestling.
Born on 15 July, 1993, Gill was to compete against a Ukranian wrestler under the 125-kg category when the organisers objected to his wearing the ‘patka’.
Besides Gill, the other Indian team delegates made lots of requests to the organisers to allow him compete while wearing a ‘patka’, which was his religious bindings, but in vain. “The organisers asked me to remove my ‘patka’ and tie my long hair as the women competitors do, but I chose to reject this offensive proposal and quit the tournament. I can sacrifice scores of such tournaments for my religious sentiments. I have participated in various national tournaments and faced no problems,” he said.
Chief wrestling coach of India Jagminder Singh, who accompanied the team, said it had been an unfortunate and a lone instance that came across in his career since 1973.
He also recalled an instance in Canada where a Sikh with fully grown hair was allowed to compete in a tournament a few years ago, but it failed to convince the organisers in Turkey and they didn’t deviate from the prescribed norms of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Under the rules, there have been no guidelines for men having long hair.
“We have Sikh wrestlers in our teams, but all are with shorn hair and clean shaven. With exception to girls who are allowed to tie their hair with a rubber band that could not harm the opponent, norms are silent about the men supporting long hair. The organisers insisted him to tie his hair as the girls do, but he chose not to compete,” he said. However, Jagminder Singh said since it was a first case, the Wrestling Federation of India should take up the matter with the WWF for amending the rules to avoid such an embarrassment in future.
Sushma’s reply to Sukhbir’s tweet
“Sukhbir ji – I have asked for a report from our Ambassador in Turkey” was the reply by Sushma Swaraj to Sukhbir Badal’s tweet: “I just came to know that the United World Wrestling association has not received any complaint from the Indian govt about the discrimination faced by Jaskawar Gill in #Istanbul. I urge @SushmaSwaraj ji & Indian Wrestling Federation to take up the issue with the Turkish govt.”

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