By Titas Khan
The Indian Women’s Hockey Team recently made the headlines after qualifying for the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics. Although the entire country proudly rejoiced the achievement of these jubilant young athletes, a simple defeat against Argentina brought an extremely ugly side of the Indian caste system.
The first Indian woman to ever score a hat-trick in Olympic hockey, Vandana Katariya’s family members were subjected to casteist hate. However, as the team continued to prepare for their Bronze medal match against Great Britain, Vandana’s family members had to survive an onslaught of abuses from ignorant Indians.
According to TOI’s report, Vandana’s brother Shekhar while talking about the miscreants, said, “They used caste slurs, insulted our family and said the Indian team lost because too many Dalits have made it to the team. They went on, saying that it’s not just hockey but every sport that should keep Dalits out.”
The caste system in India has caused countless incidents of hate crimes based on a person’s caste. However, hurling casteist abuses and citing them as the reason for a mere defeat in a sport is a new low altogether.
A country where the government elects to cut down on the funding for sports and yet expect top-notch results from the athletes already has a lot of ground to cover.
However, claiming that Dalits are the reason behind a loss in a sports event is definitely not a move in the proper direction. If anything, incidents like these not only set us miles back in our attempt to progress but also present an extremely demotivating atmosphere for upcoming athletes to prosper.
The fact that the Indian women’s hockey team managed to climb all the way to the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics is a massive achievement in itself.
Additionally, it is also the first time that an Indian woman has managed to score a hat-trick in the tournament. Both of these incidents should make any Indian extremely proud of what the team has managed to achieve. However, owing to the deep-seated casteist beliefs and superstitions, a major part of the population is busy trying to secure a non-existent excuse for the defeat against Argentina.
Instead, our government and sports authorities should be focusing on how to nurture and develop the sporting scene in the country to deliver world-class athletes that make our country proud on the global stage. Until and unless that happens, incidents of casteist hate like these will continue to spoil and ruin the potential of a successful future for countless upcoming athletes.
The only thing that remains to be said now is that instead of spreading unnecessary hate over a non-existent excuse, the entire country should be backing the team because they could do with the support. At the end of the day when the dust settles, these athletes are the ones carrying the hopes and dreams of over a billion people and their caste is definitely the last thing that we should be worried about.