Over the last ten days, swimming featured heavily in our lives. Asia’s best swimmers made their way to Jakarta to compete in the 18th Asian Games. Naturally, Indian swimmers were amongst them.
Several from the Indian team made it into their respective finals. They also broke several national records. While they were out there, competing with the best, one of the best Indian swimmers of all time was at home, being scrutinized by the law and locals alike.
Prasanta Karmakar was a national hero.
The para-swimmer has been one of India’s most celebrated sportspersons in his discipline. He has won medals at both the Asian and the Commonwealth Paralympic Games. Apart from that, he won a total of 37 medals in a long and successful career.
Karmakar was also presented with several awards. Amongst those were the Arjuna Award, the Major Dhyanchad Award, and several Swimmer of the Year Awards.
However, Karmakar felt that his contribution to the sport was not enough. He also started coaching young swimmers. He was India’s swimming coach at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
The incident happened earlier this year. The Indian swimmer was charged with misconduct, misbehaviour, and manhandling. As a result, he was suspended for Three years by the Paralympic Committee of India.
The complaint lodged against him stated that he recorded videos of his female counterparts at the National Championships in Jaipur.
PCI, in a release, said that Karmakar had instructed an associate to record the videos of female swimmers. The release further went on to say that the Para-Swimmer himself had been caught recording videos from a tripod.
As a result, several parents lodged a complaint against Karmakar, who was even detained for a while after refusing to delete the videos. He was released once he agreed to do so.
Nevertheless, after the hearing, the former champion was given a three-year ban.
Karmakar, however, maintains his innocence. He states that it was a conspiracy on behalf of the PCI to defame the Para-Swimmer.
“I was running after the Olympic medal for eight years, having left everything behind,” recounted Karmakar, “I was living in Bengaluru and had borrowed money from a lot of people. I only had one dream- to win an Olympic medal so I can repay those from whom I borrowed.”
The 16 times national champion says that he had been on the negative side of the PCI before as well. In fact, he claims, that the federation themselves have always overlooked him.
“Government was giving money to swimmers who couldn’t qualify!” the Indian swimmer says, “Those who ran the association picked lesser-quality swimmers and left my name out of the list. They appointed themselves as the coaches and then conspired against me. They knew if they don’t remove me, they wouldn’t be able to move forward.”
“They were afraid of me,” states Karmakar.
“During the Jaipur Nationals, I had eleven swimmers and three assistant coaches. I myself was there,” recounts the Para-Swimmer, “Anamika Gorai (one of the swimmers) was participating there. Her Father was recording the video as well! When he was caught three policemen came and manhandled him. Her mother was running after the policemen to leave her husband. Being a coach it is my moral responsibility to stand with them.:
“Nowhere was it written that Photography or Videography was prohibited. None of my swimmers complained about anything. The whole situation was manipulated,” Karmakar says.
“Maybe if I would have supported the Federation, I would not have been suspended today,” the national hero signs off.