Never back down
It was a huge relief to read that the Ambedkarite activist and Bhim Army chief, Chandrashekhar Azad, was granted bail by a Delhi court (“Right at risk”, Jan 17). The manner in which he was denied medical care in jail, even though he suffers from a blood disease that requires regular and specialized treatment, was a flagrant violation of his human rights. It is this sort of human rights violations that he has been fighting against, especially as part of the nation-wide protests against the draconian Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Even though his bail conditions are puzzling, one hopes he will continue to find ways to register his protest.
Sir — For a senior citizen like me, the report, “Bagan merge with Goenka’s ATK” (Jan 17), came as a shock. Like many others, I am unable to come to terms with the fact that the football club, Mohun Bagan, will complete a merger with the Indian Super League club, ATK — previously known as Atlético de Kolkata — and will play as one team called ATK-Mohun Bagan from the 2020-21 season. From the mid-1950s till almost the end of the 1960s — by which time I was a university student — I used to regularly visit the Mohun Bagan Athletic Club. It was a sporting club that was not only known for football; hockey, cricket, tennis and even rugby were played, and many laurels won throughout India. It was a club with a rich history and heritage, formed way back in 1889.
Since then, the Mariners — as the club is fondly called — have been the flagbearers of Indian football. How can one forget the historic Indian Football Association Shield’s final match in 1911 between Mohun Bagan and the East Yorkshire Regiment? It was a landmark match not only in Indian sports, and football in particular, but also in terms of the freedom struggle. Mohun Bagan A.C. defeated the East Yorkshire Regiment 2-1, becoming the first Indian team to win the IFA title — and, unlike their opponents, they played barefoot.
ATK is owned by the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group. After this merger, the group will not only have 80 per cent stake in the merged entity, but also own the rich history of Mohun Bagan. A couple of days before the merger was announced, the Indian postal department — the largest postal network in the world — issued a commemorative stamp in honour of Chuni Goswami on the football legend’s 82nd birthday. Like Gostho Pal and Talimeren Ao — they, too, have stamps issued in their memory — Goswami played for Mohun Bagan.
According to lovers of the game, the ISL is the Indian Premier League of football. One has to agree, albeit with a heavy heart, with the ATK co-owner, Utsav Parekh, when he says that “things continue to change” and that one has to “change with the time”. Maybe the merger decision was taken keeping in mind the sentiments and beliefs of the thousands of Mohun Bagan supporters while also securing the future of the club. Only time will tell whether the decision guarantees the club the same glory it has enjoyed for the last 130 years.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee,
Sir — The historic merger of the 130-year-old club, Mohun Bagan, with the five-year-old ATK came as a bolt from the blue for football fans like us. Historically, club mergers have benefited clubs such as A.S. Roma, S.L. Benfica, U.C. Sampdoria and Paris Saint-Germain.
However, there is a catch. Mohun Bagan will have to put aside its legacy and start afresh as it is changing leagues. Its opponents, with perhaps the exception of Bengaluru FC, will be new. There may be a few initial hiccups, but in the long run this will benefit Indian football. While the ISL, with its peppy, floodlit avatar, has brought in the crowds, I-League games continue to be played in vacant stadiums on lazy afternoons. However, one thing that will be sorely missed is the Calcutta Derby. Now, with the pressure of fans building up, the East Bengal football club will have to follow suit in terms of securing its future.
n Sir — The choice made by the duke and duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, to step back as “senior members” of the British royal family, is significant. Now, they will also have to give up their HRH titles and pay back the taxpayers’ money spent on Frogmore Cottage, their family home in the United Kingdom. However, their decision sets an example in choosing democracy.
Although the UK has a democratic system of governance, it is still a monarchy in name and the royal family is revered. Meghan and Harry seem to have felt that the ‘royal’ status was a burden, preventing them from leading a normal life. Now is perhaps the time for the abolition of the monarchy, with no special status accorded to a ‘royal family’. Otherwise, more members of the family might follow in Meghan and Harry’s footsteps.
In Nepal, the royal family gave up their power and accepted democracy. In England, however, the perception of the royal family being a sort of divine force still endures. This is not a correct idea to hold on to in modern times. The Sussexes have shown the right path for others to take.