The Archery Association of India (AAI) has suspended Indian compound archery coach Sunil Kumar for sexual misconduct after he made unwanted physical overtures towards a female member of the Great Britain team at the Youth World Archery Championship in Argentina. The woman complained that he hugged her during the practice session, and Kumar will now be barred from “participating in all activities related to archery”.
It is isn’t at all the first time we’ve seen sexual misconduct harassment from Indian coaches, but it is one of the few instances where action was taken quickly against the perpetrator. In many previous cases of harassment, Indian officials haven’t seen fit to look into complaints of harassment, and responding in horrifying ways instead.
In 2014, during the Asian Games, a female gymnast accused coach Manoj Rana and gymnast Chandan Pathak of sexual harassment, complaining that they persistently made sexual comments and remarks about her attire. Incredibly, the director of the Gymnastic Federation of India (GFI) said it was a “conspiracy” arising from an internal dispute, and then blamed her for going to the police! “The victim never complained to us. She should have registered a complaint first with SAI. She is not a part of the Indian contingent but was practising at the stadium under the ‘Come and Play’ scheme. I can assure you we would have taken immediate action. But she went directly to the police.” The GFI promised an investigation, and nothing has happened since.
In fact, there have even been times when officials seem to have rewarded coaches for their behaviour. In 2010, when several members of the Indian hockey team wrote a complaint against their then-coach Maharaj Krishnan Kaushik, accusing him of denying women their places in the team if they didn’t accept his sexual demands. Player T S Ranjitha Devi came out publicly with the accusations and became the face of the controversy, and the matter somehow became widely reported on simply as “sex scandal” in Indian hockey. The internal committee’s investigation deduced that he had not made sexual demands of anyone, and had merely used “colourful language”. Meanwhile, Ranjita Devi said that she did not regret making the allegations, knew every word she said to be true, and that that was why the whole team stood behind her. Coach Kaushik was sacked from his position as coach, only to be rewarded with a cushy post as high-performance manager for the Central Zone, responsible, among other things, for “teaching the coaches of academy and states’ players.”
It seems likely that in this recent case of archery coach Sunil Kumar, officials really didn’t have a choice but to take action against him because of the involvement of a British woman at an international sporting event. If it it had happened with our own sportswomen? Perhaps we’d give him Sardar Singh‘s Khel Ratna.