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Hima Das' coach accused of sexual assault by female athlete

Hima Das coach accused of sexual assault by female athlete

Sohinee Basu

Published: 29 July 2018 4:37 AM GMT
Just about the time when athletics is going places in India with 18-year-old athlete Hima Das from Dhing, Nagaon (Assam) sprinting off to glory as she won the gold medal in the 400m race at the IAAF World U-20 Championships in Finland earlier this month, terrible news has come floating. Nipon Das, who coached the firebrand Hima has been dubbed as the man behind her success as he trained the daughter of a rice farmer to fulfil her dreams, has been accused of sexual assault. The allegation has come from another athlete who trained under him in Guwahati, who after several months has spoken up. Neha Das (name changed), a track athlete who has represented the state at national inter-school competition has accused her coach, Nipon Das of sexually assaulting her and causing discomfort on several occasions.
Having trained with Nipon Das for about
a year now, Neha confesses that she always felt uneasy around him. Also read: Kabaddi coach wins a 6-year long battle in a sexual harassment case The very fact that the coach walked around scot-free even after having accounts of sexually assaulting other girls previously is very unnerving. The incident took place at Sarusajai Stadium in Guwahati during her training session. Neha narrated the gory details of the case and highlighted how the coach always tried to touch her during training, but she mostly deemed it as an accident. Also read: Kabaddi coach wins a 6-year long battle in a sexual harassment case
“In December 2017, I participated in the national level competition organised by School Games Federation of India in Haryana and during the return journey as I was getting down from the train, he hugged me tightly, and I thought that that was a normal hug from sir,” she relayed to Firstpost. The track athlete recounts how it was on the 18th of May when she had wrapped up her gym session that the event took place. Neha went up to the coach to seek permission to visit the washroom. Nipon Das, taking advantage of this situation said he would escort her as Neha wouldn't know where to find the restroom. After showing her the way to the washroom, Nipon Das, oddly entered the washroom himself. He reassured Hima by saying he will check if anyone was inside. When he had confirmed that nobody was inside, he asked her to use the washroom. Neha Das, by then had begun to sense that something was not quite right, the athlete asked Nipon to come out of the washroom so she may use it, but the coach forcefully pulled her inside. What followed is traumatic for anyone to endure and experience.
“He undressed and jumped on my body. He also tried to remove my clothes and threatened that if revealed the incident to anyone, he would suspend me from the training and the sports event,"
she cries out. After being sexually assaulted and threatened by Nipon Das, she went home and told her mother that she would not go to train from the next day. Nipon Das has been playing a very strategic game so far by assaulting various girl athletes and threatening them to not speak up about it because he'll put a full stop on their sporting careers. The other victims haven't spoken up for this very reason, out of fear.
Neha Das has taken a very pragmatic step by filing a case against Nipon at the Basistha police station on 22 June under Sections 342/354/376/511 and 506.
Although cases filed under Section 376 are non-bailable, Nipon was released on bail a day after his arrest. While speaking about the case officer-in-charge of Basistha police station, Nabajit Das Baghri, said that the case had not been established against the accused, but it has been attempted under Section 376. "The case of Nipon Das is under investigation, and he is under police observation till the investigation is over," said Baghri to Firstpost. Nipon Das when questioned by the PTI, said the woman made "false" charges as he could not get a place for her in the Assam team for the National Inter-State Athletics Championships (June 26-29) held in Guwahati.
"This woman athlete who runs 100m and 200m trains under me, and she was always after me to get her into the Assam team. I could not do that because the other girls are better than her. She was not included in the state team in National Inter-State Championships, and that is why she filed the complaint on false and fabricated grounds,
" Nipon asserted. "She could not produce any proof of her allegations. In the complaint, she said the incident happened on May 18, but she filed the complaint only on June 22. My assistant coach and some other athletes were also interrogated, but all of them said they had not seen any such incident. It is all fabricated and false,"
he added. A special investigation meeting was organised for by the Chief Minister's office on 18 July at which coach Nipon, assistant coach Nabajit Malakar, and the complainant's family were summoned for interrogation by Sadhana Hojai, Secretary to the Government of Assam, Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare Department. Hojai said that the enquiry regarding the matter against Nippon is still in process. "We have interrogated the accused, the assistant coach Nabajit Malakar as well as the victim and her parents. We will take action if we find the accused guilty," said Hojai. To stop Neha from getting involved into further harm, Neha’s father said that the assistant coach had asked her to come in the evening instead of attending the morning training session to steer clear of Nipon.  Neha's father has been powerful and firmly believes,
"Our daughter should get justice, and the accused should be punished so that no such incident could take place further."
The girl’s family claim they have also written to authorities at the Sports Authority of India, but haven’t received any response yet. They are well aware that Nipon has enough power in his hands to pull a few strings here and there in the authorities and avoid a detailed fair probe into the accusation. Women’s activist Sumitra Hazarika said that they had asked the Sports Authority of Assam and India to suspend the coach immediately to protect the future of sportswomen. She said that on the one hand while people celebrate rare achievers like Hima, and on the other, girls in sports are being harassed by those around them, which ruins their dreams. At a time when India's sporting prowess is surmounting enviable heights, it's a pitiable and distressing situation to see shameful cases like this flooding into the limelight. "We want more athletes like Hima Das, and if this kind of incidents takes place, then we will lose our players. To stop such incidents, strict action needs to be taken by the departments concerned. There should be a cell in the Sports Authority of Assam to handle such cases. But, it seems that even if such cells have been set up, they are not functioning actively," said Hazarika.
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