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Government checkmates Anand, doubts his citizenship

other Updated: Aug 24, 2010 13:44 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi
Charu Sudan Kasturi
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

World chess champion Viswanathan Anand may have earned India laurels across the globe, but the government isn't convinced he is an Indian citizen.

The world's best chess player was denied an honorary doctorate he was to have received on Monday, because different government arms are bickering over whether Anand is an Indian or Spanish citizen.

A livid Aruna Anand, wife of the champion, has written a furious note to organisers of the ongoing International Congress of Mathematicians in Hyderabad who have been lobbying for the award to the chess grandmaster, a conference organizer confirmed.

The University of Hyderabad decided in 2009 to award Anand and four others - including noted mathematician David Mumford and theatre personality Ebrahim Alkazi -- honorary doctorates.

But the university only formally forwarded the proposal - which needs President Pratibha Patil's approval - to the Human Resource Development Ministry on August 18 this year, top government sources have told HT.

The university did not specify either the date for the award, or that there were any foreign citizens among the awardees, the sources said. All foreign awardees have to be approved by the Ministry of External Affairs.

When the HRD Ministry twice prompted the university with these queries, it was informed that Anand - who lives with his wife in Spain - is a Spanish citizen. But it still did not inform the Ministry that it needed the approval urgently as the awards ceremony was to be held on Monday.

Mathematicians at the Congress in Hyderabad who learnt about the university's stance on Anand's citizenship intervened, and wrote to Aruna who responded by sending a terse email and a copy of Anand's passport.

The HRD Ministry finally concluded that Anand is indeed an Indian citizen, but sources said that university vice-chancellor, Seyed E Hasnain belived that he does not holding Indian citizenship.

"Our understanding is that Anand is a Spanish citizen, though that should not be reason for a problem," said a senior university official, clarifying that the award of the honorary doctorate to Anand had only been "deferred" and not "cancelled."