A 50-year-old Delhi-based businessman is at the heart of what has gradually snowballed into a global campaign challenging a ban on headgear - especially turbans - during international basketball matches overseen by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
Ashok Rangeen from the Basketball Federation of India told HT that the FIBA would review its ban on turbans at a session in Seville, Spain, on August 27 and, in the meantime, has allowed Sikh players to wear slightly-modified headgear during the interim period.
It all began around midnight on July 12 as Ravinder Pal Singh Kohli, who owns and operates an oil business at west Delhi's Rajouri Garden, gaped at visuals of two Sikh players - Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh - playing with their hair bound in ponytails instead of wearing either their turbans or wearing the traditional patka against China during the prelims.
"In my opinion, it was a historic match," Singh told HT. "Despite the obvious botheration on their faces for not being allowed to wear the headgear that is a part of their culture and upbringing, both Amritpal and Amjyot brought victory to India scoring 13 points each and defeating China 58-65," Singh said.
A sleepless night and 12 days of deliberations later, Kohli initiated an online petition at change.org on July 24.
The petition slowly gathered steam with two US Congressmen sending a letter to FIBA President Yvan Manini asking the sports body to change its policy. This was followed by support from Milkha Singh, Bishen Singh Bedi and Yo Yo Honey Singh. The petition currently has over 41,000 signatures that seek to urge the FIBA to review it policy on headgear entirely.
"Turbans are not simply an invention of the Sikhs," Kohli said. "They are traditional headgear across religions and communities."
Preethi Herman, country lead, Change.org said, "The campaign has resonated across the world and has brought together people from different backgrounds and nationalities in just a matter of days. This campaign has also mobilised prominent voices from the global Sikh community. We hope this massive solidarity helps in getting FIBA to relax its rule against religious headgear."