Hunting Grounds - Are Indian sports persons at the mercy of predators?

Editor’s note: We at Nation of Sport, aim to be a platform where stories of wrongdoing are told fearlessly. However, during the reporting of this story we realised that it was just as important to protect the identities of those involved. Specific names, places and other particulars have been changed in this story to protect the anonymity of the survivor. The story of Swati* and Ramesh* narrated by journalist Siva* below is based on true events. We also realised that Indian sport has a long way to go in curbing the issue of sexual harassment, something evidenced by how many officials accused of sexual harassment are still actively involved with Indian sport. Yes, we want the perpetrators to be brought to justice and we want the survivors to find peace of mind. However, until a sea of cases like that of Swati’s are brought to light, justice is a distant dream. Until that day comes, we have to keep telling these stories anonymously.

*names have been changed to protect the identities of the survivor and journalist.

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Swati* was born to be an athlete. At the age of 14, earning a full scholarship, she was sent to an elite sports hostel in the state, away from her family and friends.

At the hostel, she was patiently taught by a committed and proven grassroots coach who sharpened her skills. Within months, she was dominating at state meets and made it into the state team. Her performance at the National Championships attracted positive attention and she was soon enlisted into the national team in a younger age group.

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A few years before Swati attained prominence, a man named Ramesh* had taken up coaching of the same sport that Swati played. Ramesh had no coaching credentials, but to his fortune, a coach in a prominent sporting school in Ramesh’s city quit. Desperate to find a replacement, the school hired Ramesh without insisting on any documentation.

*

Trapped

A few months into Ramesh’s new job, a group of boys coached by him complained to their parents that he was molesting them. The boys belonged to influential families and once the parents learnt of the coach’s behaviour, they allegedly beat him up. Since no official complaint was filed and nothing was reported in the local media, Ramesh simply quit and found a coaching job at a different school. Early on in his career, Ramesh was already building relationships within the state and national federations. This put him in line for some of the better jobs including being selected as head coach of a team also featured a rising star from Ramesh’s own state. It was just a matter of time before Swati’s and Ramesh’s paths would collide.

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