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Heroes & their Arjunas

Hundreds of Arjuna Awards, dozens of Khel Ratnas and Dronacharyas and many more Dhyan Chand Awards. Given the numbers, controversies are bound to happen. SEE GRAPHICS

india Updated: Aug 29, 2009 01:35 IST
HT Correspondents

Hundreds of Arjuna Awards, dozens of Khel Ratnas and Dronacharyas and many more Dhyan Chand Awards. Given the numbers, controversies are bound to happen.

When KM Beenamol and Anjali Bhagwat jointly held the Khel Ratna in 2002, the coldness in their attitude was not lost on the audience in the Ashoka Hall. Or when Abhinav Bindra was conferred the highest sporting award in 2001 at the age of 19, the champion shooter's "achievements" were spoken of in hushed tones. HT brings you some of the controversies that have become part of the Arjuna folklore.

Asian and Olympic Games discus thrower Anil Kumar filed a petition in the Delhi High Court in 2001 alleging the Awards were being manipulated. His grouse was against SAI official Rachna Govil who was named for the award in athletics.

Anil's petition, alleging that the government policy was incomprehensive and was being manipulated by sports officials, raised a dust, resulting in the Ministry constituting a committee to decide the awards from next year.

Govil, who faced a lot of criticism, proved her mettle in another sport — shooting. Last year, she won gold in 10m air pistol defeating the country's top names and is now in the list of core group shooters for the Commonwealth Games.

In August 2001, Milkha Singh turned down the Arjuna for "lifetime achievement", feeling insulted at being equated with virtual unknowns. The 'Flying Singh' had alleged interference by politicians and the Prime Minister's Office in the selection process. The PMO, though, termed the charge "totally baseless, false and imaginary".

Sebastian Xavier was perhaps one of the country's most talented swimmers in the 1990s. However, the Kerala-born athlete was overlooked for the Arjuna so many times that he publicly questioned the selection criteria.

Wrestler Jagdish Singh Bhola brought the award and the sport into disrepute when he was caught with synthetic drugs in Mumbai in June this year. The former Punjab Police personnel had clinched silver at the Asian Games and received the Arjuna in 1997. The Ministry reacted by taking back the award.

Former Davis Cup coach Akhtar Ali expressed "shock" and "dismay" over the non-inclusion of his son and ace tennis player Zeeshan Ali in the list of awardees in 2002.