India is known to be a land of contrasts. On the one hand, we celebrate the success of our leading female sports stars like Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal. While on the other hand, a promising 15-year-old female athlete commits suicide following harassment by seniors. The news of the tragic incident of four young female athletes attempting suicide by eating poisonous fruits, with one of them succumbing to it, at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) water sports centre at Vembanad lake, Alappuzha, Kerala has spread like wildfire. While the horrific occurrence has rattled the corridors of the Sports Ministry, the news once again brings to light the plight of female Indian sports athletes. Also Read: WTF! Jet Airways barred Indian Shooters Anjali Bhagwat & Heena Sidhu for carrying firearms.
Neither Indian sports nor the governing body SAI is new to controversies. Flip through the pages of history and one can find several incidents of misbehaviour and allegations of sexual harassment made by leading sportswomen of the country. Here are five most shocking cases of misconduct and sexual harassment that puts a serious question mark over the development of a sports culture in India:
1. Women hockey players allege sexual harassment by chief coach, 2010
For everyone’s information, Hockey is the national game of India. But the game or more specifically the organisation running it, Hockey India (HI), has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In 2010, a few members of Indian Women’s Hockey team complained of being sexually harassed by the then chief coach Maharaj Krishan Kaushik. The scenario came to light when Th. Ranjitha Devi sent an email to HI. She mentioned about being subjected to sexual harassment and that she was eventually not considered for inclusion in the team for not acceding to the coach’s ‘demands’. It was also noted that Kaushik used his reputation of having coached the Men’s 1998 Bangkok Asian Games gold medal-winning side to the fullest to save himself.
2. National-level gymnast, coach booked for sexual harassment during Asian Games 2014
In yet another shocking incident of sexual harassment, gymnastics coach Manoj Rana and gymnast Chandan Pathak were booked for allegedly sexually harassing a female gymnast at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium while attending a national camp for the Asian Games 2014. The 29-year-old woman gymnast revealed that vulgar and indecent remarks were made about her clothes by the two. The Gymnastic Federation of India (GFI) promised strict action against Rana and Pathak if they were found guilty of the charges.
3. Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) secretary asks for sexual favours for inclusion in team, 2009
In a shocking incident, the women’s team accused the Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) secretary V Chamundeshwarnath of asking for sexual favours in order be selected. Following complaints of sexual harassment by women cricketers, the ACA sacked the secretary and the police booked a case against him. This shameful act came to light when six women cricketers met State Home Minister P Sabitha Indra Reddy and explained the situation to her.
4. Tamil Nadu Boxing Association (TNBA) secretary A K Karunakaran, 2011
Bronze medallist E Thulasi alleged that the Tamil Nadu Boxing Association (TNBA) secretary A K Karunakaran misbehaved with her while asking her to ‘cooperate’ if she wished to be selected for important events—including the National Games. Karunakaran was arrested along with his assistant but a lot of boxers from the association condemned the charges. E Thulasi maintained that she was not selected for an upcoming tournament despite good performance, as she refused the official’s sexual advances.
5. Promising female boxer commits suicide at stadium, 2009
A budding talent who could have made India proud in the boxing ring like Mary Kom chose to end her life following the continuous onslaught of harassment by her coach. Twenty-one-year-old S Amaravathi consumed poison at Hyderabad’s Lal Bahadur Stadium for not being able to cope with constant altercations with her coach Omkar Yadav. An inquiry was ordered, but hostel authorities denied the charge saying the medal-winning pugilist was suffering from low self-esteem. (Edited by Shweta Parande)