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Indian sports minister irked by turban row

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Basketball's no-headgear rule has irked the Indian sports minister who has reacted with anger after two Sikh members of the men's national team had to remove their turbans before they were allowed to play in the recent Asia Cup in China.

Players are not allowed "Headgear, hair accessories and jewelry" under the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rules but the Indian duo of Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh told local media they never had to remove turban until the July 12 match against Japan in Wuhan.

"We are shocked and outraged. We have spoken to Basketball Federation of India and sought a detailed report from them," sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal said in a statement.

"We have also asked International Olympic Committee (IOC) to issue necessary guidelines/instructions to international sports federations so that such incidents do not take place again," he said.

FIBA officials were not immediately available for comment.

"Wearing turban is a part of me. When they told us we couldn't play with one it felt very awkward," Amjyot told the Times of India newspaper.

"But for the team we decided to play without turbans."

The Sikh religion requires followers to grow their hair and wear a turban, while children must wear traditional Sikh headgear called the "patka" or "dastaar" in school.

Sonowal said turbans posed no threats to other players.

"Wearing a turban does not affect fair play and has not been objected to in international sports championships. Therefore, the latest incident has surprised and shocked us," the minister said.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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