Employees of IT companies play on a basketball court after work at the Electronics City IT district in Bangalore.
Employees of IT companies play on a basketball court after work at the Electronics City IT district in Bangalore (representational image).Reuters file

In a shocking incident which occurred during the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in China, two Sikh players from the Indian basketball team were made to remove their turbans, prior to the commencement of the game against Japan on 12 July.

On the day when India were to take on Japan, Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh were made to remove their turbans before descending to the court, in order to be allowed to partake in the contest.

The authorities at the event claimed that the two youngsters would be violating a FIBA rule, where as per article 4.4.2 "Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players." It further says: "Headgear, hair accessories and jewellery are not permitted."

22-year-old Amjyot, who scored 30 points against Singapore to allow India a 7th place finish in the tournament, expressed his angst against the decision.

"Wearing turban is a part of me. When they told us we couldn't play with one it felt very awkward. But for the team we decided to play without turbans."

Equally disturbed by the incident was Amritpal, who did not allow it to affect his game and went on to score 15 points.

"We have always played in turbans, even in last year's Asian Championship in Manila and also the recently held Lusofonia Games in Goa," the 23-year-old said.

"This Asia Cup was a memorable event for all of us. But the controversy left both of us distressed. I wear a turban in practice too, and it was strange to not have it on during the game."

Speaking about the incident, Scott Flemming, the Indian coach said that he tried his best to dissuade the authorities from making the duo remove their turban but they failed to see the religious sentiments attached with the headgear and stuck to their stance.

"I am personally against a rule that infringes on someone's religious beliefs. A headgear does not cause any harm to others."

In a further twist to the tale, Basketball Federation of India (BFI) were reportedly clueless about the issue and only came to know of it two weeks later, after The Times of India contacted them for the story.

 "This is a very serious issue. I will seek the manager's report immediately and will lodge a strong protest with the governing body, both FIBA Asia and World. I will also follow it up with the ministry of sports and see to it that this never happens again," said RS Gill, president of the BFI.