On Wednesday the Indian Women’s hockey team left for Busan, South Korea for the Asian Champions Trophy tournament. But allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour of officials, surfacing just before their departure, had completely vitiated the atmosphere.
Maharaj Kishan Kaushik, the coach who was accused of sexually harassing national-level player Th. Ranjitha, resigned, and M. Basavraja, the videographer whose photos in compromising situations with various ‘escorts’ were circulated among officials and the media, was sacked.
The flare up reportedly has its roots in an incident last year when Ranjitha approached the coach, saying she could not take part in a practice session because of a groin injury. Kaushik is believed to have responded by asking if her injury was related to her sexual activities.
It has now emerged this is not the first time complaints were made against Kaushik.
Former player Sanggai Chanu said senior players had complained to the association earlier about an inappropriate relationship Kaushik had with the then team manager, a woman, in 2006.
Another former player from Haryana, who now lives abroad, told HT Kaushik frequently made vulgar remarks about players. “We got to know from others he made inappropriate remarks about physique. But we couldn’t do much as senior federation officials were protecting him,” she said.
“Besides, we were afraid we would not be picked again if we spoke up,” she added.
While Kaushik has resigned, several other demands made by the players in the wake of the scandal have not been met as yet. The team wanted assistant coach Vasu Thapliyal, mind trainer Rajan Kukreja and manager Madhu Yadav, to be removed along with Kaushik, but they remain ensconsed. Hockey India officials stressed that such drastic decisions could not be taken in a hurry. How this upheaval will affect the team, which plays the World Cup in Argentina next month, and the Commonwealth Games in October, remains to be seen.
Before the team left Delhi, Sports Ministry officials met the players to hear their grievances. Separately, Kaushik and Ranjitha appeared before a four-member enquiry panel constituted by Hockey India.
The panel, comprising Rajiv Mehta (chairman) and former players Zafar Iqbal, Ajit Pal Singh and Sudharsan Pathak, asked both for written submissions, which would in turn be forwarded to the Sports Authority of India.
“I have worked very hard with the team but the seriousness of the charge levelled against me has left me disappointed. Under such circumstances, I can no longer coach the side and so, decided to resign,” said Kaushik.
While Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials would not reveal what further steps they would take, they seemed to feel that Kaushik's resignation as coach has obviated the need for further action. “The matter is dead. Now the inquiry committee will send us their findings, and we will examine them,” said a SAI official.
In the case of the videographer who patronised escorts, Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra, said that the ball was in SAI's court.
“The videographer is a SAI employee and any further action is up to them now,” said Batra. “On our part we have sacked him.”
With inputs from B. Shrikant in Mumbai