Responding to the reports that her family in Haridwar was subjected to casteist slurs from upper-caste Hindu men, India forward Vandana Katariya, whose commendable performance was one of the highlights of the hockey team’s dream run at the Tokyo Games, said that they were playing for the country and such casteism remarks should not happen.
“We are playing for the country… and whatever is happening… like casteist comments… whatever little I have heard, shouldn’t happen,” Katariya told Indian Express.
An upper-caste man Vijaypal (25) was arrested from the Roshnabad area of Uttarakhand’s Haridwar district for shouting casteist slurs against the family of Vandana Katariya who was part of India’s women’s hockey team which lost to Argentina in a semifinal match at the Tokyo Olympics. Katariya scored one of India’s three goals in the match.
On Wednesday, a group of upper-caste men began circling Katariya’s home and they burst crackers, danced in mock celebration, and hurled anti-Dalit abuses at her family, saying that the team had lost because it had “too many Dalit players.”
Speaking to IE, the Olympian said she had heard about the incident but hadn’t spoken to her family yet.
She went on to say: “Only think about hockey, there are young girls, we are playing for the country, so we have to be one, I mean in every aspect. I have kept my phone switched off from the time I have come here so I haven’t spoken to anyone (in the family)… When I speak to them, I’ll comment on this incident.”
An FIR was lodged and raids are being conducted in search of the other accused, police said. According to a statement from Haridwar Police, an FIR under IPC Section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and SC/ST Act has been lodged against three persons Vijay Pal, Ankur Pal and Sumit Chauhan and other unidentified persons at Sidcul police station.
According to the news agency Press Trust of India, a heated argument also took place between members of the family and the two men involved in the incident, following which a complaint was filed by Vandana’s brother Chandra Shekhar.
“We saw 3-4 youths bursting crackers and dancing outside our house. They said how can people of my caste play in the national team?” Indian Express quotes Chandra Shekhar as saying.
Vandana’s brother also said that his family is in a state of fear because the youths also threatened to kill them.
Chandra Shekhar added that the accused youths live in the same locality in the Roshnabad area about a few metres from their house.
“When we went outside, we saw two men from our village — we know them and they are upper castes,” he told Times of India.
“They went on, saying that it’s not just hockey but every sport that should keep Dalits out. It was a caste-based attack,” he adds.