Indian Hockey Player Vandana Katariya’s Family Faces Casteist Abuse After Losing Semifinals

After the Indian women's hockey team lost the semifinals, two upper caste men in Haridwar went to Vandana Katariya's home and screamed casteist abuses at her family.

After the Indian women’s hockey team lost the semifinals, two upper caste men went to Vandana Katariya’s home and screamed casteist abuses at her family. 

For the first time in history, the Indian Women’s Hockey Team has made us proud by reaching the semi-finals. Vandana Katariya became the first Indian woman hockey player to score an Olympic hat-trick. Needless to say, what a glorious moment for India!

But things turned violent at Vandana Katariya’s hometown of Roshnabad, Haridwar.

A couple of hours after the Indian Women’s Hockey Team lost in the semi-finals to Argentina, two upper caste men circled Vandana Kantariya’s home and abused her family. They burst fire crackers, danced in false jubilation, and screamed caste slurs. Vandana Katariya’s brother Shekhar reported that these upper class men screamed, and claimed that squad had lost because there were  “too many Dalit players in the team.” They further went around and reiterated “not just hockey but every sport that should keep Dalits out.”

Wow! Is this how we greet the first Indian woman who scored a hat-trick at the Olympics? Having said that, not just the star of the games, no one should be subjected to casteist abuse like this.

It were Vandana Katariya’s goals against South Africa that helped India reach the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics. She was out there on the international stage making us all proud and representing her country. And instead of celebrating her accomplishments, she is subjected to caste slurs. This hatred and harassment is done in guise of nationalism and caste pride.

Religion and casteism have always marred sports in India

It is no secret that casteism is ingrained in our society, and people think it’s okay to use caste slurs. There are still people who can’t seem to keep religion and caste out of sports. Even after scoring a hat-trick, Vandana Katariya’s family had to go through casteist harassment. Is there any limit to this?

Atrocities against Dalit women are never individual cases; they are part of a wider story of caste vengeance. Such discrimination continues every day, despite the fact that several Dalit leaders have struggled over decades to eradicate the depth and extent of such discriminatory practices.

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Earlier this week, after PV Sindhu made us proud by winning the bronze medal in women’s badminton, the Google search for her spiked, and the most startling, even absurd aspect of these internet searches was that most people were curious to know PV Sindhu’s caste.

It was not about her victory, not about her accomplishments but the caste, most of these women athletes come from humble backgrounds and they have fought their way to the top.

For instance, former national level boxer Helen Thulasi also had to deal with caste based discrimination. Halen once said in an interview that “Being a Dalit has no value, just because I am a Dalit, I am expected to stay at the bottom.”

Your ‘love of sports’ and ‘national pride’ does not make all this Ok

If women who have dedicated their entire life to sports are abused and harassed, what hope is there for anyone else?

Even sportsmen including Vinod Kambli and Palwankar Baloo faced prejudice because of their caste. Despite Palwankar Baloo’s significant contribution to cricket, most people are unaware of his contribution.

The awful sight of ‘casteism’ is so deeply embedded in our culture that it nearly seems unattainable to eradicate. And caste-based discrimination is not just limited to sports but it is so prevalent in every profession. Often Dalit women are attacked, raped and abused. Yet time and again people question – why do we need reservation?

Indians have a strange, entitled, and an abusive relationship with sports – we make ‘superheroes’ of them, but when we feel as if we’ve been “let down” in any sports event where emotions run high, we have taken to abusing and threatening the concerned sportspersons, even their families. Last year this trolling and abusing hit a new low when some users threatened to rape cricket player MS Dhoni’s six-year-old daughter and blamed her for the team’s loss. Anushka Sharma has been inexplicably blamed and trolled, even threats sent, for husband Virat Kohli’s failures on the field.

These are troubling issues about the society in which we live. And if you are a woman athlete and a Dalit, you will be objectified, and reduced to your caste.

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