In a major embarrassment, world chess champion Viswanathan Anand’s nationality was questioned by the human resource development ministry, preventing him from receiving an honorary doctorate from the centrally-run University of Hyderabad Tuesday.
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal intervened and apologised to the chess genius. He blamed the lapse on “procedural issues”. An acutely embarrassed uiniversity too said sorry to Anand.
Anand, who is the first Asian to win the World Chess Championship title, was to be awarded an honorary doctorate along with renowned mathematician David Mumford of Harvard University at a function in Hyderabad Tuesday.
The honour was, however, deferred as the proposal was not cleared by the government on time. HRD ministry officials demanded confirmation of Anand’s citizenship before the University of Hyderabad could confer the doctorate on him at the International Congress for Mathematicians. Anand is currently living in Spain.
Coming to the rescue, Sibal called up Anand personally and apologised and also said they were prepared to confer the honorary doctorate degree on him Tuesday.
“I personally called up Viswanathan Anand at his hotel. I told him that we are sorry for what has transpired. As far as we are concerned, we were ready to give him the honorary doctorate today (Tuesday) evening itself,” Sibal told reporters.
“But Anand indicated that this may be a problem. I said we are ready to award the degree any day it is convenient and he kindly agreed,” said Sibal.
However, even after the minister’s intervention clearing the proposal, the head of the mathematics department in University of Hyderabad, Rajat Tandon, told reporters that the degree could not be conferred Tuesday as this could not be done in a hurry.
“Such things cannot be done in a hurry, we will give him an honorary degree, but some other time,” an apologetic Tandon said.
Tandon said in the morning the HRD officials had asked for proof of Anand’s Indian citizenship and a copy of his passport was faxed to them.
While the organisers blamed the incident on the bureaucracy, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal blamed it on “procedural issues”.
“We cleared the proposal on May 22, but there are procedural delays,” he said, adding “the issue has been resolved”.
Hailing from Tamil Nadu, Anand has made Spain his second home but he continues to hold an Indian passport.
“The proposals from citizens of other countries are scrutinized by the external affairs ministry. But with Anand there is no confusion. Even if Indian citizens settle abroad they should be conferred such honours,” Sibal said.
Anand’s wife, Aruna, said: “I am not sure where the issue started. However, a sportsman of Anand’s calibre shouldn’t be upset, because he has seen a lot in his career.”
“We are happy that the matter has come to an end,” she told Times Now channel on phone after Sibal called.
The champion, however, remained cool about the whole incident and was quoted as saying that he was there to play in the championship with the mathematicians.
“I am here to play with the mathematicians, so leave all that,” he said.
Anand was to play chess with 40 mathematicians in Hyderabad where the International Congress of Mathematicians is going on.