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Vandana Katariya blamed for caste as India lose Olympic semifinal

Even though the Indian women's hockey team won hearts with their performance at the Tokyo Olympics, the country is still quick to judge by caste.

Indian Hockey Player Vandana Katariya

Vandana Katariya (Source: Getty Images)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 2021-08-05T11:29:54+05:30

At a time when apparently the whole of India erupted in happiness after the Indian women's hockey team made an unassuming entry into the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics after defeating 3-time Olympic champion's Australia, things back in seasoned Indian forward Vandana Katariya's native place in Roshnabad, Haridwar took an ugly turn.

Despite playing a tight encounter against the Las Leonas of Argentina in the semi-finals, the Indian women's team, captained by Rani Rampal, failed to make it to the Gold Medal match and lost, 1-2. While the entire country seemed to come together to celebrate the valiant efforts of the Sjoerd Marijne coached side and sent their wishes for the upcoming bronze medal encounter against Great Britain, in Roshnabad, where Vandana comes from, the picture wasn't so pretty.

Immediately after the loss to Argentina, two upper-caste men from Vandana's village in Roshnabad, Haridwar began skirting around her house - jeering and bursting firecrackers in mock celebration of the loss. In a country like India, especially in states like Uttar Pradesh, casteism is still very much an ugly, unwelcome resident, ready to raise its head at the smallest of events and this was another such crushing example.

The upper caste men circled around Vandana's house and called out to the family members, telling them the team lost because it had "too many Dalit players" in it.

Naturally offending the family of the talented Indian forward who became the first Indian woman to score a hattrick at the Tokyo Olympics in their crucial Group A pool match against South Africa, Vandana's brother Shekhar conveyed to TOI, "We were upset after the loss. But the team went down fighting. We were proud of that."

"Suddenly, right after the match, we heard loud noises. Crackers were being burst outside our house. When we went outside, we saw two men from our village -- we know them and they are upper castes -- dancing in front of our house," Shekhar narrated.

However much India has tried to separate itself from casteism and really step forward, time and again, casteist issues have resurfaced and pinned India down.

"They used caste slurs, insulted our family and said the Indian team lost because too many Dalits (the men used a specific caste slur) have made it to the team. They went on, saying that it's not just hockey but every sport that should keep Dalits out," Shekhar's complaint mentioned.

Provoking the family further, the upper caste men carried on this insensitive behaviour as Shekhar recalled, "Then, they took some of their clothes off and started dancing again...It was a caste-based attack." Although an FIR is yet to be lodged, one of the accused has already been detained.

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