Even as fans and followers of 'Master Blaster' Sachin Tendulkar continue to express their excitement at the news of the cricketer receiving the country's highest civilian award - Bharat Ratna - on Tuesday, the age-old debate of whether hockey legend Dhyan Chand deserved to get the honour first has resurfaced in the media and social networking platforms with a renewed fury.
A group of hockey players, as well as fans, held a protest rally in the capital on Wednesday, demanding the award to be conferred to the late Chand, who is widely considered as one of the greatest hockey players of all-time.
Chand (1905-1979) was known as The Wizard for his superb ball control and skills. He has scored more than 400 goals in his international career and is a three-time Olympic gold medalist.
Bewildered public have taken to the social media and the micro-blogging sites to express their views. Many agree that though Tendulkar deserves the Bharat Ratna, Chand should have been bestowed with the award first.
Mainstream media have also been pondering over the issue, with some outlets sending across a confused babble on whether to be happy for Tendulkar or be sad for Chand. Zee News, which is considered as a premium Hindi news channel, held an hour-long talk show discussing the issue, while pointing out that the decision to give the award to the cricketer could have been politically motivated.
An RTI inquiry into the matter revealed that the process of conferring the country's highest civilian award to the batting maestro was initiated on the first day of his last cricket Test (200th) on 14 November 2013. And the announcement was made two days later.
It has also been claimed that the union home ministry had opposed sports minister Ajay Maken's plea to confer Bharat Ratna to the cricketer. In September 2011, Maken had requested the government to consider sportspersons for Bharat Ratna awards. But the home ministry had rejected the suggestion saying: "Inclusion of sports as a field for Bharat Ratna may raise the issue to include other fields such as trade and industry and social work in the award category of Bharat Ratna."
The ministry had also said that while "Tendulkar deserves the highest honour... there are several other sports person who have made our country proud" including Chand. But the confused public now want to know despite such mixed reactions, why did the government give a go-ahead to Tendulkar's award.
In an interview with Mid-Day, Chand's son Ashok Kumar said that the application to the sports ministry to consider his father's candidature for the honour had been approved long before Tendulkar was even discussed as a candidate.
"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," Kumar told the newspaper.
An open letter has also been written to the Prime Minister, seeking clarification on this matter.
Following are some of the Twitter reactions on the issue:
I strongly feel Major Dhyan Chand deserves a Bharat Ratna much more than Sachin.
— Jigyasa (@Jigyasa_Garg) February 5, 2014
— Pranav Chavan (@HeLL_Org) February 5, 2014
INDIA SHAMED BHART RATNA BY NEGLECTING MAJOR DHYAN CHAND WORLD WIZARD OF HOCKEY AND SUCCUMB TO LOBBIEST & POLITICS ACCOMODATIONG CRICKETER.
— SHRI KRISHAN GUPTA (@SKG1950) February 5, 2014