Indian sports legend and three times Olympic Champion Major Dhyan Chand's Olympian son Ashok Kumar said that political considerations in the selection of nominees for the Bharat Ratna have resulted in his father missing out on the opportunity of being decorated with the country's highest civilian award.
Ashok Kumar, former Indian Hockey captain, World Champion and Olympic medalist, said: "Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had signed on the files and subsequently we were informed by the then Sports Minister that Dada (Dhyan Chand) would be conferred with Bharat Ratna."
"However, the decision was later deferred. By doing so, the government did not humiliate us ... it humiliated a national icon."
Speaking to the IANS, on the National Sports Day, celebrated on Dhyan Chand's birth anniversary on August 29, the ace hockey forward said: "Awards are not sought. Awards are not desired. Awards are not begged...Awards are conferred by the government to those who deserve them."
"It is now for the government to decide and judge, whether they feel that Dhyan Chand deserves a Bharat Ratna."
Ashok Kumar, regarded as the world's best dribbler in hockey, post-independence, and son of an unbeatable athlete in modern sports history, said that the country should not forget Dhyan Chand's ultra-nationalistic character.
"Despite the British rule, he (Dhyan Chand) had the courage to take a tri-colour flag in his suitcase to the Berlin Oympics, held in 1936."
"When India beat Germany in the finals, in front of Hitler, Dada unfurled the tricolour flag (consisting of a charkha instead of Chakra, and three stripes) at the Olympic games village in Berlin."
"He was the first Indian to unfurl the tricolour abroad. Fortunately enough, the date was August 15, when India won the gold medal. Besides my father, my uncle Roop Singh, a member of the team was witness to this historic event," said Ashok Kumar.
Speaking about the simplicity of Dhyan Chand, his son recalled an event. "It was in the mid-seventies when Dada was invited as a chief guest in a function held at Jhansi (Uttar Pradesh). When the organisers delayed in sending a vehicle to pick him up, Dada requested his neighbour to drop him to the venue."
"The neighbour had an old bicycle and Dada as a pillion rider reached the venue on time. The organisers felt guilty to see my father arriving as a chief guest on a bicycle. But there was more shock in store for them."
"Dada requested the organisers that as he arrived with his friend on a bicycle, he will return home on the same vehicle. This incident explains how simple and undemanding he was," Ashok Kumar said.
Reminiscing the fond memories of his father, the former hockey captain said that Dhyan Chand's game was closely followed by the Bollywood stars of the time which includes Hindi film industry's first superstar KL Saigal, Prithvi Raj Kapoor, Ashok Kumar and several others.
"In the late 1930s, maybe in 1937, my father, then considered the second best known Indian in Europe after Gandhi was participating in the Bombay Gold Cup tournament. He represented his famous club Jhansi Heroes. In one of the matches, Prithviraj Kapoor (the great-grandfather of Ranbir Kapoor) and KL Saigal were seated in the stadium."
"During the half time, Saigal asked my father about the reason why his team Jhansi Heroes was not playing up to the mark and had been trailing by 1-2 in the game. Saigal then told Dada that he would sing one song for every goal scored by him. In the next 35 minutes, Dada scored 9 goals."
"Next day Saigal sent his car to the place where Dada was staying and invited the entire team for a dinner party. After the dinner, Saigal gifted a precious wristwatch to Dada, as a token of his love. The watch was sported by my father on his wrist for his entire life," said Ashok Kumar.
Ashok Kumar, 69, who scored the lone goal against Pakistan to win the World Cup for India in 1975, now teaches his classic skills to youngsters.
He said that after retiring from Indian airlines, he frequently tours different parts of the country and continues to interact with young hockey players of the future. On the 114th birth anniversary of his father, Kumar was attending a sports function in Betul, a district in southern Madhya Pradesh.