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14 years and counting, when will Gill relent?

Hockey has become the national shame decades back due to reasons not just to do with inept, corrupt administration, but also due to a man whom India loves to call its saviour, writes Pradeep Magazine.
None | By Pradeep Magazine
UPDATED ON MAR 14, 2008 02:16 AM IST

Like vultures, we pounce on the misery of others.

Last week we were suddenly told that hockey is our national game. We were also informed that it has become our national shame. The reason being that we had failed to qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time in 80 years.

That we have been just filling in the numbers in international hockey for the past couple of decades and have had no chance even in our wildest dreams to think that we could again become the champions we once were, was reason enough to believe that this sport is not our national game.

It couldn’t have been, when the space provided to this sport on our sports pages is not even one-hundredth of what is given to cricket. The only time it makes news is when the sport plummets to even greater depths of disaster.

National game it may have been in ‘Ancient India’, when the poor radio was the uncrowned king of disseminating news to the world.

National shame it became decades back due to reasons not just to do with inept, corrupt administration, but also due to a man whom India loves to call its saviour.

Kanwar Pal Singh Gill, the super cop, is credited with wiping out terrorism from the face of Punjab and has also been built up as a man who understands the poetry of Ghalib as intensely as he knows how to pull the trigger of an AK-47.

There was a time when editors of major newspapers were so enamoured of him that, we were told, he was India’s greatest all-rounder - a ruthless man with the heart of a poet and the mind of a philosopher. The news that his force may have killed innocent people had been treated with derision by those who value their “freedom”, but for the sake of saving “our India” what are a few lives that may have been lost along with “betrayers” of the nation!

When he pinched a woman colleague’s bottom, it was treated as a Page 3 transgression, even though the “victim” got him convicted in a court of law.

His post-retirement days began with the commitment that he would restore Indian hockey to its days of glory.

In 1993, he had the support of all those who wished the sport well and also the backing of a majority of past and present players.

But when two young journalists questioned his credentials, he got them beaten black and blue. This defender of freedom has over the past 14 years or so made a staggering contribution to making us a laughing stock in the international hockey fraternity. Those very former Olympians who had canvassed for him got so disgusted with his autocratic ways that they petitioned the President of India last year to get him removed.

But the man himself is untouched by this clamour.

Why a man, who gives sermons on accountability, does not want to begin from home needs to be probed.

What is making a “proud” police officer scoff at those who believe that even if he cannot be blamed for all the ills plaguing the sport, it is time for him to move on. Fourteen years at the helm is enough time for even someone who has been successful in his mission.

In this case, even failure is not seen as a good enough reason to let someone else make a fresh attempt to sort out this complicated mess.

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