Sarita Devi: How India forgot its daughter

Shivani Gupta
Shivani GuptaOct 07, 2014 | 17:00

Sarita Devi: How India forgot its daughter

Sarita Devi

No one can condone, suggest or recommend what Sarita Devi, the Indian boxer who was denied a sure-shot victory, did at the Asian Games. As an athlete, or as a fan, you just don't want to see, what is in the end, an ugly scene on the podium, or on the field of play.

It is unsportsmanlike. And even if it's by a body like the AIBA - International Boxing Association, which has grossly failed to correct its own procedures to ensure biased judges don't impact outcomes of bouts, one knows and understands why such behaviour is not tolerated, or may even be punished, just like in Sarita's case.


Simply put, if you didn't, it would happen everyday. But what do you do when no one is listening to you? What do you do when you have been wronged so blatantly, robbed of a win in broad daylight? What do you do when you have cried your eyes out and no one comes to even lend a shoulder to your woes. No wonder Sarita acted out.

Yes, she wanted attention. She wanted a rancorous display at a stage where it will be noticed. Because no one heard her. No one came to her help when she walked out of the ring she dominated as a loser. No one bothered to check with her. Bouts went on. Life went on. For everyone else.

As the Indian boxing coach GS Sandhu said later, "We had other bouts to go to." Sarita waited for almost two hours. Only when the Mongolian Olympic Association made a hue and cry about an unfair decision about one of their boxers did the Indian camp even feel the need to do something. And of course there was the media glare that they needed to satisfy.

Nobody actually believed in the appeal against Sarita's decision. The rules don't allow it. It was a foregone conclusion. But the fact that even that wasn't done in the stipulated 30 minutes just shows the "caught in the headlights" reaction of the camp.


In the meantime, no one from the Indian Olympic Association or the Indian chef-de-mission had even bothered to get in touch with Sarita. In the end, her husband pooled in 400 dollars from his own pocket together with a 100 more borrowed from a mediaperson to deposit the fee to register the protest. There was no real official response.

Sarita cried the whole day and wept the whole night. She couldn't believe she had been cheated so unashamedly. But what wrangled her heart more was that no one came to even console her. Imagine the morning after her bout. She watched her compatriot MC Mary Kom claim a coveted and much-deserved gold in her category. Sarita thought, "That should have been me, that could have been me. I deserved to win. I could have won the gold too. Why is this happening to me?"

Soon after she was to go to the podium to accept the medal she clearly didn't deserve. She was desperate. This was perhaps her last Asian Games. She wanted to make a statement. Yes ill-advised, but wasn't it effective? I spoke to her 24 hours after her bout. She hadn't received a call from the newly-elected Boxing India or anyone from the IOA. She lost the medal, but her main grouse was that no one even bothered to check up on her. "Am I not India's daughter?"


She asked, almost breaking down. "Is it because I'm from the Northeast?" I didn't know. Because the same day another boxer from the Northeast was the toast of the country.

"I did what I did for my country," she was sobbing. "I'm not worried about any action against me. I have worked so hard for this. My son doesn't even recognise me, I've been away so long for training. Why didn't any of these people who are here to help us do anything to support me." She was simply heart-broken.

Maybe Sarita was convenient to be forgotten. Maybe she had become a nuisance. After all no one likes a cry baby right? But maybe all she needed was a hand on her shoulder, a kind word, advice on how to handle this, a hope for the future. Maybe that was too much to ask.

Last updated: October 07, 2014 | 17:00
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