Renaming the Khel Ratna Award: ‘Significant timing’

By Sridhar Subramaniam
Major Dhyan Chand “The Wizard” racing away to glory // Photo supplied by author

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
 By any other name would smell as sweet”

If a recent event was anything to go by, this was not so. A simple gesture of renaming an award stirred up a hornet’s nest and caused a political furore. Yes, I refer to the re-christening of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award to Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award. The timing was especially significant!

Major Dhyan Chand “The Wizard” racing away to glory

Indian Hockey has been in the wilderness and on a wild goose chase for almost 41 years. The Indian Hockey Men’s team scripted history by winning the bronze medal in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics and made it to the winning podium after a virtual drought of those many years. The Indian hockey team’s last medal came at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, where it won Gold.

Winning a championship or a medal in hockey in any international event is an emotional moment for India. Hockey is considered India’s national sport and any accomplishment here will cause national jubilation and euphoria and any debacle will result in an outpouring of angst. It was a moment to cherish. The nation felt that with this emphatic win, India has bounced back into the reckoning and it was in the fitness of things that, an elated Prime Minister, riding the crest of a nationwide euphoria announced that the Khel Ratna Award, the nation’s highest sports award will henceforth be named after Maj. Dhyan Chand, who in his hey days was given the sobriquet—The Wizard.  He was to hockey, what Pele was to soccer and Bradman to cricket!

A fitting tribute, though belated, to a great son of India

The name change however peeved the erstwhile ruling party of India, the Indira Congress. The party felt that the move dented the image of the Nehru-Gandhi family. There is no reason for the family to feel slighted. Barring the few years that someone else other than a family member ruled, most of the 70 years after Independence, only a member of this family has been at the helm of affairs and has done everything within its means to perpetuate the memory of its ilk and their legacy.

An RTI (Right to Information) query in 2012 revealed that 12 central and 52 state schemes, 28 sports tournaments and trophies, 19 stadiums, five airports and ports, 98 educational institutions, 51 awards, 15 fellowships, 15 national sanctuaries and parks, 39 hospitals and medical institutions, 37 institutions, chairs and festivals and 74 roads, buildings and places are named after the three members of the Nehru-Gandhi family. It adds up to a mind-boggling figure of 445!

Posterity will stop to ponder and say to themselves, “Never in the annals of any country’s history has so much owed by so many country men to so few!”

No denying that that the family has made significant contribution to the nation’s history and their memories have to be perpetuated but this scale of perpetuation defies logic and dwarfs into insignificance the enormous contributions made by India’s other Illustrious sons and daughters in their respective fields of endeavour.

India is a democracy and whatever it is today, in any sphere, is owing to the sweat and toil of its illustrious sons and daughters. It is only befitting that they get their place under the sun, as well.

Will we ever correct this anomaly? If so, when?

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  1. Very well said, There must be a rule that no Govt. advertisement, nor any establishment shall be named after any ruling party member or minister or erstwhile minister.
    accordingly name of Modi Stadium should also be changed to Kapil Dev for his WC winning captaincy.
    Lets move to a country of no slavery or british colonialism. we still have the british names running amock. our (Bangalore,India Karanataka’s) legilature and High Court is situate in Cubbon park and we have rulings like we are slaves only.
    jai Hind