Indian Hockey Touches Its Nadir As Sex Scandal Hits It
Nothing seems to be going right for the Indian hockey. The once considered to be the National Game, is in the news but for all the wrong reasons. Since 2008, Hockey in the country, both in the men and women section, has touched its nadir. People, who once showed concern for the Game has given it up as a lost cause and this new “Sex Scandal” which has rocked Women hockey, may turn out to be the last nail in the coffin. But before Women hockey is discussed in detail, a little bit refreshing of its past history may help us understand the genesis of this crisis.
It was in 1982 at Delhi, that Women hockey was introduced in the Asian Games for the first time and India won the Gold. That was the first and the last of the Gold, country won in this competition in subsequent editions of the Games. Exactly 20 years later at Manchester Commonwealth Games, Indian Women surprised everybody, including themselves by winning the Hockey Gold. The government had announced that every Gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games will get Rs 20 lakh. Logically, this money should have been distributed amongst the players. But here the girls proved smarter than the government. They argued that each of them contributed in the victory of the team so they should be given Rs 20 lakh each.
To the amazement of all, the then Sports Minister Uma Bharti accepted this demand and players who otherwise should have got Rs one and half lakh, received a whopping Rs 20 lakh each. This perhaps was the biggest prize money ever to be given in team competition including cricket (at that time). As the cliché goes, the game was never the same again and also Indian women never won any title after that. Suddenly women hockey began to be discussed and there started frequent tours to give the girls much needed International exposure, but eight years down the line and innumerable trips abroad at the taxpayer’s expense, the results have been very dismal.
As the number of foreign jaunts grew, the number of players wanting to play the game and earn the national colours also grew, and along with that there started whispering campaign against some officials that they were “sexually exploiting the girls who were eager to go abroad”. No such allegation was ever proved but according to insiders, “most of the times, the players who raised their voices were simply discarded and shunted out. The media was not as powerful as it is today, there were no private television channels and also going to foreign was big dream”. However, this argument was dismissed by Indian Women Hockey Federation (IWHF) secretary Amrit Bose. “I have never come across any such incident during my association with the Game. Personal relations and tiffs cannot be converted into sexual harassment cases”, she argued.
In recent past, a junior team player had levelled a sexual harassment charge against the team coach and matter went to court where the case was dismissed. Some former women players agree that all is not “OK with the Game especially off the field”, no player will stake her reputation and future by levelling such grave charges (sexual harassment) without reason, was their argument. However the sudden eruption of this “sex scandal” has even surprised them also because name of Maharaj Krishan Kaushik is involved. To add to the woes was the video clippings which were flashed across the TV channels showing women’s team videographer Basavraj with prostitute.
“But who carried out that ‘sting operation’ which caught Basavraj in action. That means there was already a plan lay out to put officials accompany the team in bad light,” said the sources in the Hockey India. After Basavraj’s clippings, Hockey India received another bombshell with a member of the women’s team sending a written complaint alleging sexual harassment against coach MK Kaushik. In the letter player Ranjita Devi alleged that coach had asked for sexual favours and used vulgar language during a recent Canada and China tour. Hockey India (HI) was left with no option but to take note of the signed handwritten letter.
It is conspiracy against me —Kaushik
Maharaj Krishan Kaushik, till a couple of days ago was considered as the saviour of Indian Women’s hockey but now suddenly he is a “Fall Guy” .He has been charged with a “sexual misdemeanours” and that has shocked him.
In an interview the coach said: “These players (Girls) have grown up before my eyes. I have always treated them as my family”, he said adding “I never ever thought that couple of disgruntled people will play such a cruel joke with me”.
Kaushik was of the view that his being a strict disciplinarian is not like by some people. “I will never compromise as for as team selection is concerned. I never played favourite, neither have I believed in playing politics with players. In my long association with Women hockey, I never formed coterie nor I tried to back stab people”, he said adding, “but why they have to do this to me.”
“My conscious is clear, my life as a coach is an open book and I have nothing to hide or fear” he asserted. “I just can’t believe and fathom why the allegations of sexual harassment have been levelled against me”, a visibly upset Kaushik said: “I have done no harm to anybody.”
He asserted that in his long career as a coach, his character was never ever been questioned, “A well planned conspiracy has been hatched against me. Those who failed to get selected in the national team are behind this cheap act, I will prove my innocence. I can’t believe that one can go to such an extent to level charges against me,” he said
To a query as why he has resigned from the post, Kaushik replied that it was his moral duty to step aside until proven innocent. “With my name being dragged in this scandal, how can I go to the stadium with the team? No question arises of me accompanying the team to South Korea. I am not in the position to lead the side there and work with mental peace,” said the man in the eye of storm.
“In the last two decades as women’s hockey team coach, no one pointed a finger towards my integrity. My players have always treated me like a father-figure. It’s difficult to understand what prompted them to come out with such false charges against me,” said Kaushik. “Go and ask the players, why they have done so? I have always maintained that those players who are in form and fit will be selected. The players performance will ultimately be counted and help in cementing your place in the side. I am very confident that truth will prevail,” he said and sought media’s co-operation and help to find out the real conspirators behind this diabolic act.
He urged the media not to project him as a villain, “I am no villain I am gentleman, a dedicated coach, who has given his best years for the betterment of the Game, I deserve better than this. I feel insulted, humiliated. It is going to be tough for any honest man to be a coach in future.”
“A women’s team member has mailed me a written complaint of sexual harassment, usage of vulgar language and asking for sexual favours against a coaching staff,” HI secretary Narinder Batra said. He then further spilled the beans saying that he had also received an anonymous mail earlier, where allegations had been levelled against the videographer of the team for having being involved in a sexual orgy with prostitutes during the foreign tour. “Five photographs of the videographer with the prostitutes had also been mailed to me. It is a disgraceful incident. It is just not acceptable. It is a very serious issue and we will deal this with a firm hand,” he asserted. Batra, who only couple of days ago had asserted that HI was an autonomous body and government has nothing to do with it, said the Sports Ministry had been appraised of the complaints. He then went a step further saying: “I urge the player to file a formal police complaint. The other players should also come forward with their grievances. They don’t have to worry about their future selection and safety. Hockey India will help them financially if they want to go to court”.
Interestingly, Batra, after this bravado, admitted that all the 31 girls who have supported Ranjita Devi however have made it clear to him that Kaushik has never ever harrased them. “I talked to each player who is in the coaching camp at Bhopal on phone and they said they never had any problem with Kaushik but same time maintained that they support Ranjita’s allegation. They wanted Justice for Ranjita. In fact, the girls were not only against Kaushik but also wanted assistant coach Vasu Thapliyal and manager Madhu Yadav be sacked.”
Kaushik on his part maintained that this is a big-time conspiracy against him and asserted: “I will prove my innocence. I can’t believe that one can go to such an extent to level charges against me,” HI immediately set up four-member inquiry committee to look into the sex allegations. It comprises of Rajiv Mehta (chairman), former Olympians Zafar Iqbal, Ajit Pal Singh and Sudharsan Pathak. “We have told the committee to submit its report as early as possible and that report will be sent to Sports Authority of India (SAI) further action. Both Kaushik and Basavraj are employees of the SAI and we have nothing to do with them” Batra said, he further quoted that there were however people who feel that this matter is not all that simple. “I don’t know why Kaushik has been targeted” said Amrit Bose. “He has worked with us and there were no complaints against him. In any case it (Scandal) has done tremandous harm to women’s hockey”.
Former captain Ajitpal Singh, member of the inquiry committee, sensed something more than what meet the eye, “Why Kaushik should turn womaniser now, I have never heard anything against him earlier,” Ajitpal asked. “We are asking everybody to give their replies in writing. We are not going by oral evidence. We will like to go to the bottom of this issue. It has erupted just few days before the election of HI and two months before the Commonwealth Games” he inquired. Another probe panel member Zafar Iqbal was bit more vocal, “The player (Ranjita) had nothing to support her allegations. She has even admitted that Kaushik has never touched or forced her,” Zafar also seconded Ajitpal’s view by saying “Kaushik has been coaching since 1991 and also has played with us. I have never heard any complaints against him and suddenly these charges had come up. Something is wrong somewhere”. Third member of the committee Sudarshan Pathak has also lent her support to Kaushik saying: “There have been no allegations against him in the last ten years. We also need to verify the girl’s charges.” So it looks that probe panel has already prejudged the issue in favour of the coach but it will find it tough to give clean chit to Kaushik in view of the views expressed by two former players of repute—Skipper Helen Mary and Sanggai Chanu. They told a TV channel that girl kept quiet because of the fear of reprisal. “And since most of the girls came from humble background they lacked courage to protest”, Mary was more specific. “After Madrid World Cup in 2006, I complained but nobody came to my help. Because of him (Kaushik) I had to end my career that year.”
“The truth is out and Kaushik Sir is a liar”. It is too early to say whether Kaushik Sir is liar or not or Ranjita’s charges are genuine or not, but the fact remains is that Indian hockey has suffered yet another body blow and it will take a long time to recover its reputation off the field—on the field performance, everybody has already given up.
By Harpal Singh Bedi