Sania Mirza is the highest ranked tennis player from India. India has stood on the sidelines of international tennis for a long time. Even now, the highest ranked Indian in the male ranking is an American, Prakash Amritraj, at 278. Rohan Bopanna is at 292 and there is no other Indian on the ranking list till we move down to the 400s.
In the women’s rankings, after Sania Mirza at 31, we find another American, Sunitha Rao, representing India at 193. Isha Lakhani is next at 350. When put in the Indian perspective, Sania’s achievements at the international competition of tennis, is of monumental nature.
When Indians went gaga over her success it was understandable. ‘Sania Mania’ was screamed from the headlines of Indian newspapers. Any famous person in this day and age attracts controversies, and Sania was no exception.
In the beginning there were fatwas issued against her short skirts. Fatwas being non-binding and advisory in nature, obviously, not much importance was given to these religious rulings. The exception of course was in the national and international media.
Not too long ago, the 21 year old tennis star found herself involved in another controversy when she was found to be shooting an advertisement without permission in the premises of historic Mecca Masjid of Hyderabad, which is also her home town. The responsibility for permissions rest with the company doing the shooting. By dragging Sania Mirza into the controversy, these people intend to get famous by latching out to her national and international popularity.
According to Google Trends, there were more people searching for Sania Mirza than Sachin Tendulkar or Shah Rukh Khan. Since 2005 when she burst into the tennis scene she consistently leads the search done for her compared to other two Indian legends. No mean achievement for a 21 year old.
This explains the recent lawsuit against her for insulting the Indian flag. It seems to be more an attempt to gain a share in fame and a slice of media attention than really protecting the dignity of Indian flag. The only thing this cheap tactic will achieve is to make a top player lose her concentration.
The person, who will remain un-named in this article so as not to give him the undue publicity that he is after, and his lawyer have filed a number of lawsuits against other famous personalities over the years. Sachin Tendulkar, Mandira Bedi, M F Hussain have been similarly harassed by him.
The complaints against Sania are that during the 2008 Hopman Cup in Australia while watching a match, she had her feet up on the table which happened to be facing an Indian flag. The only evidence seems to be a photo taken by an AFP photographer.
The Hopman Cup, in its twentieth year is a mixed tournament where male and female tennis players play as a team to represent their country. A team consists of a male tennis player and a female tennis player and a match between two countries are played as one women’s singles match, one men’s singles match and a mixed double match.
Only eight teams are invited to play and India has been invited in 2007 and 2008. The credit for this invitation goes to Sania’s high ranking in singles and doubles on the women’s circuit. Before Sania, there was no invitation and without her our men do not rank high enough to get an invitation based on their performance.
What bigger respect could there be for a nation’s flag to be displayed at important international events. Isn’t it unfortunate that Sania who is the reason for Indian flag to be displayed in Perth in the first place, is now being accused of disrespecting it? Without her incredible performance, India and the Indian flag would not have been present there just as they were not present for the past 18 years of the Hopman Cup.
In the picture, Sania does appear to have her feet towards an Indian flag, though the angle of the image makes it impossible to say what the distance between her feet and the flag was. A video recording of the match may clear up that confusion.
Legally, the National Flag of India is governed by the Flag Code of India adopted in 2002. This code requires that flag should be made of hand spun or hand woven material. The code does make provision for paper flags. The code stipulates imprisonment for three years, fine or both for disrespecting the flag.
The law reads “[w]hoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise shows disrespect to or brings into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written, or by acts) the Indian National FlagÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â¦. or any part thereof, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
Most of us can agree that Sania meant no disrespect by placing her feet towards the flag. Dragging her un-necessarily to courts will not help India’s cause or earn respect for India. Instead of harassment and controversy that she seems to be getting from all quarters, she deserves all the praise for getting the Indian flag displayed at all tennis events that used to have no Indian representation in the past.
The only court that Sania Mirza belongs in is a tennis court.