India

India Sikh wrestler quits international tournament over turban row

Jaskanwar Singh Gill Image copyright Ravinder Singh Robin
Image caption Mr Gill says he has no regrets over pulling out of the tournament

An Indian Sikh wrestler has pulled out of an international tournament in Turkey after being told he cannot compete while wearing a turban.

Jaskanwar Singh Gill told BBC Punjabi that he "refused" to remove his turban since it was made of cloth and would not hurt his opponent during a match.

Any head gear that can harm an opponent is not allowed in the ring, according to international wrestling rules.

Mr Gill says he is "proud of his decision and has no regrets".

"It keeps my hair away from my face and eyes so it helps me during a fight," he told BBC Punjabi's Ravinder Singh Robin.

The United World Wrestling (UWW) tournament in Turkey would have been Mr Gill's first international competition.

He told local media that as he was "the only Sikh wrestler in a team of 25", he felt compelled to "fight against this discrimination".

Mr Gill added that he had competed in many national games, but this was the first time he had ever been asked to wrestle without his "patka" (a type of Sikh turban usually worn during sport or by younger boys).

Mr Gill and his coach have reported the matter to the sports ministry and the Wrestling Federation of India, a government sports body.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that she has sought "a report" on the incident from the Indian ambassador in Turkey.

In 2014 two Sikh basketball players from the Indian national team removed their turbans to compete in a tournament in China. They were told that they had to do so in order to play.

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