Santhi Soundarajan Accuses SDAT Colleague of Caste, Gender Bias
Indian athlete from Tamil Nadu Santhi Soundarajan has alleged caste-based and gender-based discrimination by her colleagues at the state-run Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT). While an FIR has been registered by the Chennai Police under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, no arrests have yet been made.
Santhi’s complaint is against Rajan Abraham, her colleague at the SDAT, who, she alleges has continually used caste- and gender- based slurs to discriminate against her.
In her complaint, Santhi writes, “My colleague Rajan and a few others have been harassing me based on caste and gender for many years. When I compete in races, Rajan mentions my caste name and ask why ‘dogs’ like us need sports. He also used to abuse me asking how a ‘man’ can run with other women. He said I have fooled everyone.”
The athlete, who won a silver medal for India in the Asian Games in Doha in 2006, was stripped of her medal after she ‘failed’ a gender test – a discriminatory test that says women who have higher levels of testosterone (hyperandrogenism) are not allowed to compete in women’s athletics events. Rajan’s alleged comments are in reference to this.
Santhi’s allegation, made on 1 October, reveals systemic discrimination at the state’s premier sports institution. A Dalit woman, Santhi further alleges that Rajan used to threaten her, asking for her caste name.
“He used to threaten me saying, let’s see how long you last here. . . When I used the washroom, he would loudly call out to the men. He would ask his students to file sexual harassment complaints against me. He had planned to have me dismissed from my job,” she writes.
Speaking to TNM, Gopi Shankar, an intersex activist supporting Santhi’s case, says that the athlete has been transferred from the post of coach to a clerical job at the SDAT, defeating the purpose of employing a talent such as hers. She was given a permanent posting as a coach at SDAT in October 2016, after a decade-long struggle.
“We approached the National Commission for Scheduled Castes with a complaint. An investigation was conducted by them. A non-bailable FIR has also been registered by the police. It has been five days now but no arrests have been made. They are calling Santhi for an investigation after an FIR has been registered. No women were present when Santhi went for the investigation,” Gopi says.
Santhi pleads in her complaint, “I humbly request the government to transfer me to the post of trainer and allow me to create Olympians for the country.”
The FIR reveals that Rajan has been booked under Section 3(1)(xi) (assaults or uses force to any woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe with intent to dishonour or outrage her modesty) and Section 4 (Punishment for neglect of duties) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
When TNM contacted the police officer handling the case, he refused to divulge details over the phone.