National Game or National Shame?

Posted on August 5, 2010 in YKA Editorials

By Radhika Naithani:

Reality always gives you a larger picture than fantasy. I like movies with happy endings especially the adrenaline pumping, heart beat raising, blood gushing sports movies, where the underdogs beat the champions and emerge victorious. I remember watching ‘Chak de’, first day first show with my friends. Boy! Now that’s what I call a good underdog movie. An Indian women’s hockey team fights against all odds and wins the world cup under the guidance of an inspiring coach! The movie buff that I am, I just loved it but the cynic in me found the whole idea to be a bit utopian in nature. And in the wake of the recent sex scandal that rocked the Nation, that cynic loudly screamed “I told you so!

Anyway, back to real life from the reel life. The Indian women’s hockey team was rocked by an anonymous letter sent to the ministry by a team’s member, alleging that the coach has been demanding sexual favours from the players during an overseas tour. If this revelation was not enough already, the Team’s videographer was caught on camera in compromising position with couple of call girls during overseas tours to China and Canada. Mr. Kaushik, quite obviously, denied all these allegations, with a vehemence not seen in most honest of individuals. On receiving the letter Hockey India immediately got into action and formed a four member inquiry panel.

Sexual harassment at work place is one of the major stumbling blocks that come in the way of women of the modern era. The recent hockey scandal is an example of such a stumbling block. What bothers me the most is the fact that the most deprived, the most neglected and the most discriminated sector of Indian sports has been hit by this scandal. The women’s hockey team was already suffering from poor funding, lack of infrastructure and low recognition, now they even have sexual harassment to deal with. However, according to me perhaps the place where a woman is most vulnerable is the sports sector. The hockey scandal happens to be just the tip of the iceberg. The infamous Ruchika Girhotra case reiterates this for us. A 14 years old, young Lawn tennis player is molested by the founding president of the Haryana Lawn tennis association in his office or the very recent Karnam malleswari case where the Arjuna award winner comes out from the closet and accuses Coach Ramesh Malhotra of sexual harassment. Last year a woman boxer in Hyderabad was driven to suicide by her coach who continuously harrased her. Then People ask, why do we have only one Saina Nehwal, one Sania Mirza and one PT Usha? The answer lies in the condition of the Women’s plight in the Sports Industry. Do you think that a father would allow his daughter to pursue Hockey as a career amidst the current scenario? Would you encourage your sister, daughter, wife to take up professional sports? The answer sadly would be in negative.

Playing Sports as a leisure activity is one thing but getting professional is another. There are very few women in our country who step out of their threshold and dare to represent our country in the global sports scenario. But how do we pay them for their bravado? They end up fighting for the respect & recognition they truly deserve and for their right to be treated equally with their male counterparts. However the discrimination does not end here. The inquiry panel formed to probe into the alleged sexual harassment is an all-men panel. This invited the wrath of the Delhi commission of women, as such an action on part of the ministry is not only wrong on ethical grounds but also on legal grounds. The constitution of an all male enquiry panel is in violation of the Supreme Court’s directives in setting up sexual harassment committees. According to DCW chairperson Barkha Singh “Ideally, the committee inquiring into sexual harassment ought to have a woman as a chairperson and 50% of its members as female and a NGO representative to ensure fairness and complete objectivity of the inquiry. The committee should therefore be constituted on these lines,” This whole issue has been handled by Hockey India in a very childish and reckless manner. The Commonwealth Games just a few weeks away, this will have a very negative impact on India’s reputation in the global sports scenario.

Though sexual harassment is a stark reality in almost all women’s sports in India, seldom has there been such an open admission of it. It is for this reason that many people branded this whole scandal as ‘A huge conspiracy’ against the coach and people like Sudharshan Pathak, a committee member, exclaimed that she is surprised that no allegations have previously been levelled against the coach. Just because a thing is not blatantly visible, it does not necessarily validate its absenteeism. According to former Olympic swimmer Nisha Millet, sexual harassment is deep rooted in almost all women’s sports but most of the time the women suffer in silence in fear of jeopardising their careers. To this point, I may also add that most of these players come from backward areas, poor households and most of them are illiterate. For them survival is all about endurance. Subservience is the price they have to pay to establish their place in this male dominated world of Indian sports. It won’t be harsh to call the Indian women’s team coach, a despot, considering the amount of absolute power he possesses. What chances do these poor and illiterate girls have against this tyrant? ZILCH! The only survival tactic left for them is to suffer in silence and to accustom themselves to the coach’s undue demands.

One of the solutions to this issue is appointment of a women coach and constitution of an impartial body to probe into such sexual harassment cases. Such a body should be free from any type of bureaucratic control and political interference. Effective redressal machinery is a need of the hour to tackle such sensitive issues. Keeping all this in mind one can conclude that there is no ‘chak de’ happening in the real world. A coach like Kabir Khan continues to be an illusion. How very unfortunate news that is for a country, whose crowning glory was hockey for the longest time possible. Way before MSD and his men were even born. ‘Chick De’ than ‘Chak De’ sounds more apt for now. Doesn’t it?

Photo shows M.K. Kaushik, the Indian Women’s Hockey coach, alleged with sleaze charges. Image source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/more-sports/hockey/Womens-hockey-coach-resigns-after-sex-charges/articleshow/6197010.cms

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