Killing raises concern for safety of sportsperson

Murder of a national-level woman player by a stalker rocks Haryana, reports Tehelka Bureau

When everybody thought that Haryana women are rewriting the script of state’s infamy by winning international sporting medals, scaling Mt. Everest and bagging the coveted Miss World title, a young national-level taekwondo player, Sarita was shot dead by her stalker, a wrestler, in the wee hours this week. This shows patriarchal mindsets have not changed in Haryana despite achievements by State women in many fields.

In this case, the accused, Sombir, barged into the National Player, Sarita’s house at Bhoda Khurd village in the district and shot her after she refused to accept his “last and final” proposal. The victim’s family has accused the police of inaction despite repeated complaints of stalking by one Sombir (26), a resident of Bamdola village of Jhajjar district in Haryana. He had been stalking the victim for over a year and had been pressurizing her to marry him. She had complained to the police in August and an FIR was also registered, but the accused was not arrested. She constantly followed up the matter with the police, highlighting the danger and harassment she faced, but her pleas were not taken seriously.

Sarita’s mother Savitri said that on November 12, the accused carrying a gun entered our house and asked Sarita to marry him at gunpoint. He threatened that he was asking for the last time if she would marry him. Thinking it was his usual threat, my daughter refused and he shot her, and fled. The victim was rushed to a private hospital, where the doctors declared her as brought dead. On the complaint of the mother, an FIR has been registered against Sombir under Section 302 (murder), 449 (trespass to commit murder) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and Sections 25, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act at the Bilaspur police station.

A day after national-level taekwondo player Sarita was shot dead by her stalker Sombir, her elder sister told media persons that “Sarita was under constant threat from him and even took up jobs in other cities like Jaipur and Shimla to escape him. But he traced her and harassed her there also. My father fell grievously ill and that brought Sarita back to Gurugram and her life became hell. She somehow knew that this ordeal would have a tragic end and thus came back to bear it rather than putting the family in danger”.  She added that Sarita’s father had died after illness two months ago and Sombir had allegedly been harassing the family ever since.

She said that Sombir Gulia would come home and create ruckus and say he would clipp off the wings of my sister. He sought money from my father but we could not pay him. My mother and sister confined themselves to the house’s first floor and kept the ground floor locked. But he broke open the latches,” added Sarita’s sister.

Indeed, odds those women in Haryana face are all too well known. Women achievers came to hog spotlight in Haryana when story and struggles of wrestler sisters Geeta and Babita Phogat — who bagged medals for the country at the international level — was well depicted in Aamir Khan’s superhit movie “Dangal”. Another woman wrestler from the state, Sakshi Malik, brought glory to the country by winning a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Mountaineer Santosh Yadav became the first Indian woman to scale the world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest, twice. She was also the first woman to scale the peak from the tougher Kangshung Face. The Indian women’s hockey team has been dominated by players from Haryana, particularly from a hockey nursery in Shahbad Markanda town. Be it captain Mamta Kharab or players like Suman Bala, Jasjeet Kaur, Surinder Kaur, Pritam Rani and Sita Gussain — all hail from Haryana. Ace international badminton player Saina Nehwal too has her family roots in Haryana. In 1997, Haryana-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla from Karnal took the state to unprecedented heights when she went on a NASA space mission. She went on another mission in 2003 and met with a tragic end when the spacecraft disintegrated on its return journey. Haryana, the state known for being the nursery of power women, prides itself for every glory earned by its talented women.

Sarita’s gruesome murder is not the solitary example of crime against women in Haryana. Earlier, an 18-year-old girl and an aspiring doctor was killed on May 17 by her alleged stalker in Faridabad. According to the police the stalker, unclothed the teenager and grabbed her by the hair to bash her head into the wall, tortured her with a screwdriver and scissors, before stabbing her to death. The police said that it was a case of one-sided obsession as the girl had declined his offer and there was no evidence of any kind of telephonic contact between the two. At the time of the crime, the victim was alone at home as her school teacher father and lecturer mother gone to work. He had covered his face when he forced his entry into the house, blindfolded her and began to unclothe her. The CCTV camera installed inside the house showed how she fought him fiercely though he held her by the hair and pushed her head into the wall.

The shackles of bigotry, the gender bias and mindset continue to bind the state to a level that eclipses the achievements attained. The gruesome murder of the young national-level taekwondo player, Sarita and similar incidents are symptomatic of the problems that plague our deeply patriarchal society. Till boys are taught by their mothers, fathers and teachers to be sensitive about the consent of a prospective partner in a relationship, they will find it difficult to take no for a proposal and turn violent, as in the present case. It’s equally important that the police take immediate note of complaints of women feeling threatened. Had they listened to Sarita’s pleas and acted swiftly, she may have been alive today. When will the authorities wake from their slumber?