A most popular sport in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Kabaddi champions have made India proud worldwide. It is the national sport of Bangladesh and Nepal. South Asian immigrants introduced Kabaddi to the United Kingdom (UK). While here, the British Army had enjoyed the sport also, as an exercise to make friends with local people.

Kabaddi, an ancient sport, is said to be a favourite of the Yadav community. According to folklore, growing up in the rural area of Vrindavan, Krishna had amused himself by playing Kabaddi with members of the Yadav clan of that time.

From the villages of western UP, the game spread to neighbouring Haryana where it remains a favourite to this day. In the Mahabharata it is said that Arjuna was able to deceive his enemy because he had learnt stealth as a champion Kabaddi player.

The Buddha is believed to have enjoyed the game in childhood. Buddhist literature talks about the many commonalities between Kabaddi and Yoga. Breath control is essential to both and his love for the game helped the Buddha in his meditations later in life.

The continuous chant of kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi… in the game, is said to be an excellent exercise too. In the 1993 Hollywood film Little Buddha by Bernardo Bertolucci, Keanu Reeves who plays Gautam Buddha is shown participating in a game of Kabaddi.

For Tibetan monks Kabaddi is said to be an important path to meditation. Realising the spiritual benefits of Kabaddi, monks in Japan have introduced the game to the country. Today billions search for the Pro Kabaddi League on Google, making it the second most searched tournament in the country after the Cricket World Cup.

Traditionally Kabaddi was played in villages, but thanks to contemporary India's enthusiasm, Kabaddi is an internationally recognised competitive sport today. The first competitions were held in the 1920s, introduced to the Olympic Games in 1938 and played as a demonstration sport in 1951 at the Asian Games held in New Delhi. A demonstration of the game was again held at the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1982 after which the sport was added formally to the Asian Games programme in 1990.

Feeding Players in a Toilet?

However, seemingly blind to the role that Kabaddi plays in the life of the region, recent media reports showed that Kabaddi players were recently served half cooked food on the floor of a washroom? On the first day of the three-day sub-junior girl's Kabaddi competition, the players were served meals on the toilet floor at a Saharanpur Sports Stadium.

The players were served half cooked rice in a tray placed on the floor in a toilet, reportedly 'due to a shortage of space'. The three-day camp in Saharanpur had attracted teams from 17 divisions ,and was hosted by the UP Kabaddi Association of a state level sub junior girls competition in Saharanpur. Shame is the only word that comes to mind to describe the horrific incident after which some officials have been suspended.

Prayagraj Protests

The news from Prayagraj's Allahabad University is disturbing. Hundreds of students soaked themselves in kerosene oil in an attempt to commit suicide. So far fellow students have managed to prevent students from taking their life. The students are protesting a 400 percent hike in fees.

Abhishek Yadav, one of the students, said, "at least 100 students have poured petrol on themselves, and now thousands will do the same if our demand isn't accepted."

Students are unable to attend classes as they are engaged in a battle for their right to education. "My father is unable to buy food to feed the family, where will I find extra money to pay the University?" wonders another student.

Most of the students at the University are from districts of eastern UP, which is also the poorest part of the state. The entire purpose of education subsidised by the government was to provide literacy to the majority of the population that remains pathetically poor even 75 years after Independence.

The answer to the problem is not to privatise education but to make it even more affordable to the poorest citizen in the state if illiteracy rates are to be lowered. In solidarity with the students of Allahabad University, Prince Prakash student leader, Lucknow University told The Citizen that instead of spending money on doling out freebies to the poor people, the state should use all the resources at its command to provide education and jobs and prepare the youth of the country to eventually lead an economically independent life.

Angry students complain that by hiking the fees at universities, the ruling party wants to wash its hands of educating the poor, who are the majority population in the state.

"The children of rich parents will move to expensive private schools but what will the poor do? Will they sit at home and wait for the ruling party to send them free rations? What kind of a country will it be where the majority of citizens remain uneducated, unemployed and at the mercy of politicians who may choose to feed them in the future, or not!" said Prince.

The Elephant Stirs

The loudest buzz in the state today is that Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is waking up. Its party emblem, the elephant, has stirred.

The Samajwadi Party (SP), the main opposition in the state today could not believe its ears after it heard Mayawati praise its attempts to demonstrate against the rise in prices of essential commodities. Mayawati called the ruling party's attempt to crush the demonstrators undemocratic. Mayawati also spoke against the ruling party's plan to hike the fees of Allahabad University students.

It is no secret that Mayawati has been a long-time political opponent of the SP. Until recently her party was suspected of supporting the ruling party to win many elections.

After SP chief Akhilesh Yadav led an impressive march of a sea of supporters to the state Assembly on the first day of the Monsoon Session, the police confronted the demonstrators. Soon Mayawati tweeted, "Not allowing the opposition parties to protest against the anti-people policies of the government is autocracy and atrocities have become the new dictatorial trend of the BJP government. At the same the government's perception of litigation and arrest of people and suppressing the protest is dangerous".

Mayawati did not name the SP but clearly in support of the march by Akhilesh Yadav, she was critical of the ruling party for its indifference to inflation, poverty, unemployment, education, health and law and order. For the first time in many months, Mayawati spoke in favour of students.

The way the Allahabad University authorities are trying to crush the student's movement was unfair and condemnable, said Mayawati. In another tweet, Mayawati stated that the UP government should give up its autocracy and be sympathetic to the legitimate demands of students.

It seems like Mayawati has chosen to return to the side of the poorest of the poor of the state, even if it is only in preparation perhaps for the next general elections to be held in two years from now.

Rumi Darwaza a.k.a Deen Dayal Dwar?

By the way the rumour is that Lucknow's iconic Rumi Darwaza from the 19th Century, has a new name. Next time when wanting to visit the gate patterned after the traditional architecture of Constantinople, do remember to tell the rickshawallah that the Deen Dayal Dwar is your destination!