Wednesday, 1 October 2014

In support of Sarita Devi

For anyone following the Asian Games in Incheon, the Indian boxer Sarita Devi's 'loss' to South Korea's Park Jin-a (variantly Jina or Ji-Na in the media) should be a disappointment. There are often allegations of favouritism for host countries in boxing and other contact sports, but rarely has favouritism been as blatant as what is being done this time in Incheon. Sarita had dominated the bout so thoroughly, especially rounds 2 and 3, that the word favouritism falls short. Match-fixing, it is. There were also protests over Indian boxer Devendro Laishram's loss, and in fact, a Mongolian boxer chose to do a sit-in protest in the ring! Boxing apart, football (yes, soccer for some) and wrestling have also come under shadow.

In Sarita's case, she had landed much more clean and aggressive punches than her rival had, who resorted more to clinching (being hugging-ly close to your opponent so that he/she can't punch). After her match Sarita stared in disbelief and in an emotional outburst on the podium, refused to accept the bronze medal and hung it instead in Park Jin-a's neck. This action has come under considerable criticism from some sections of the media as being 'unsportsmanlike' and 'undignified' . AIBA is in fact, considering disciplinary action.

What this section of the media doesn't realize is that dignified behaviour was thrown out of the window when the judges unanimously (Yes!) awarded Ms. Park the bout 3-0. Sportsman spirit involves being honest and accepting a fair loss. But it does not involve silently watching as injustice is done to you. In fact, you would expect a good sportsman to raise his/her voice against injustice, though in this case, the victim is she herself. Another incorrect line of thought is that she should not have come to the medal ceremony if she did not want to accept the medal. Firstly, any idiot would be able to see that her outburst was spontaneous and not premeditated like David Francis, the AIBA supervisor claimed it was. I would love to challenge him to take the event's video to a human lie detector to prove this. And even if it was, the kind of 'protest' that the AIBA seems to like is meekly sitting in your own room, crying to yourself while everybody else cares zilch and the medal ceremony goes as smooth as honey. No AIBA, this and perhaps worse, is how a real protest will and should go when someone has got the guts to stand up against injustice.

The only person who you could feel bad about in this incident is Park Jin-a who might have had nothing to do in this bias and her achievement will always be shrouded in a cloud of despise. There's a saying in Marathi, my native tongue, which fits here - ओलं सुकं एकत्र जळतं  (The wet and the dry burn together). Whether you are guilty or not, if you are part of a burning heap, unfortunately, you will have to bear the brunt too.

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