Amid mystery shrouding the visit of kabaddi players from Punjab visiting Pakistan to participate in “World Kabaddi Championship”, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Monday ordered the national kabaddi federation to probe the “unauthorised” participation by the team even as it came to light that Punjab Kabaddi Association, led by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and former minister Sikandar Singh Maluka had accepted the invite from Pakistan Kabaddi Federation. The event was declared “invalid” by the International Kabaddi Federation.
PKA letters show acceptance of Pak invite
According to two letters, dated November 28, 2019 signed by Amanpreet Singh Malhi, Secretary of Punjab Kabaddi Association (PKA), and December 11, 2019 signed by Maluka himself, written to Pakistan Kabaddi Federation, the PKA had promised to participate in the World Kabaddi Championship in Lahore.
In the first letter, it is clearly written to Muhammad Sarwar Rana, Secretary General Pakistan Kabaddi Federation that PKA had accepted the invite to participate in the championship. The letter states: “We are excited to represent India in this upcoming World Kabaddi Championship.”
The second letter signed by Maluka has a list of 22, comprising a two coaches, a team manager and 19 players.
The Kabaddi championship had taken place in Lahore from February 9 to 16. As many as 60 players with jerseys that had “India” written on them had reached Pakistan leading to a controversy. The team returned from Lahore after losing in the final on Sunday amid the furore over its participation.
‘Not right for unofficial team to play using India’s name’
Speaking on the matter, Sports Minister Rijiju said, “Our official kabaddi team didn’t go to Pakistan. We don’t know who has gone there. It is not right for any unofficial team to go anywhere and play with India’s name. We didn’t send any official team.”
“We will ask the kabaddi federation to conduct an inquiry and identify those people who went there and used India’s name without taking permission. To represent India in any recognised tournament, it is mandatory to take approval from the respective sport’s national federation.” The minister though added, “If somebody goes for any private tournament, then we can’t do anything.”
After Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to congratulate his team after it beat India in the final, Rijiju said it was not wise on Khan’s part.
“It is not wise for a person of the stature of Pakistan Prime Minister to make such statements. It is a serious matter. Imran Khan himself was a sportsman, now he has become the Prime Minister but he should avoid giving such statements.”
Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) president Justice S P Garg (retd) has already written to Pakistan that India had nothing to do with the team representing India there. Justice Garg has clearly stated that India had not sent any team to Pakistan to play.
Punjab Congress President Sunil Kumar Jakhar has also accused Akalis to be behind the visit of Punjab Kabaddi players to Pakistan.
‘Nothing wrong in players going there’
PKA president Maluka, meanwhile, agreed that he had accepted the invite of Pakistan for the championship that was originally scheduled for January 12 to 19, 2020.
“We had accepted the invite then. I was about to take permission from the Centre for sending the players. But they rescheduled the championship in February and tweaked the rule. They allowed a country’s players to play from other countries. We decided not to participate in the event because it is illegal to call it world championship if there are mixed teams.”
He added: “The players got visas individually. There was nothing wrong in their going there. We were told the championship was in the name of Guru Nanak Dev. When we were spending so much of money here for 550th birth anniversary celebrations of the Guru, what is the issue with kabaddi players going there? Had we sent a team, we would have sent 12-14 players, with the coach and the manager of the team. I would have gone myself. But I was advised against going there by Justice Garg.”
Maluka said the issue has been blown out of proportion. “What is the harm? What will the players do by going there except playing Kabaddi and winning prizes?” he asked. He said the players were scared while in Pakistan about the controversy back home.
After returning via the Attari-Wagah land route on Monday, team promoter Davinder Singh Bajwa told reporters,”We did not need permission from any authority for participating in the tournament because we all went there in individual capacities…We have our own five different independent federations which went to Pakistan in their own capacities to take part in the competition. Therefore, there was nothing wrong in it.”
He claimed: “The team travelled to Pakistan on valid visa…It was not an official tournament that required permission from any specific department.”
(With PTI inputs)
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines