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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do you feel the suspension of Boxer Sarita Devi is right ? .... No !!

It is easy to say – ‘rules are rules’ Umpires (referee)’s decisions should not be criticised but accepted ….. harsh for the Manipuri … ‘Correct the anamoly – do not simply punish the one who is forced to protest’..  Laishram Sarita Devi is in news  again,  the woman boxer from Manipur fought in style - It is not often that an entire stadium greets the winner with boos; definitely not when the winner is from the host country.  After putting up a good performance, it was ruled unanimously that  local hope Jina Park was the winner in her Light Weight (57-60 kg) semifinal bout against India's L Sarita Devi.  Even if you had no idea about the rules of boxing and how points are scored, it wasn't difficult to understand that the Indian boxer was well and truly hammering the daylights out of her Korean opponent.

Now comes the news that AIBA, the amateur boxing's governing body, has provisionally suspended India boxer L Sarita Devi for an unspecified period for her emotional protest at the 2014 Asian Games. Sarita will miss the World Boxing Champions in Jeju, South Korea next month. AIBA has also suspended Sarita's three coaches - Gurbakhsh Singh Sandhu, Blas Iglesias Fernandez and Sagar Mai Dhayal - as well as Adille Sumariwalla, who was India's Chef de Mission at the Asian Games held in Incheon last month.

Sarita told PTI that she was unaware of the development and will only act when she gets a formal word from AIBA. Coach Sandhu was optimistic about the situation and said the matter will be resolved soon. Sarita's protest took place a day after she was widely perceived as having been robbed by the judges in her lightweight semi-final bout with South Korean boxer Jina Park. To the untrained eye, it looked like Sarita had dominated the fight, especially in the final two rounds, leaving her opponent with a bloodied nose. But the judges ruled in Jina's favour, causing boos to rain down from the crowd. At the medal ceremony, Sarita burst into tears and refused to allow the bronze medal to be placed around the neck. She then took the medal and put it around a stunned Jina's neck, as if to say this is your medal, not mine. After Sarita had returned to her place on the podium, the Korean boxer followed her and begged her to take the medal back.

"It was a protest for all the sportsmen and women of the world against injustice in sport,” Sarita said later. “Had I kept the medal, it would have reminded me of the injustice and cheating all my life. So I decided not to accept it.” Sarita's controversial protest sent a tremor racing through the Asian Games and AIBA responded harshly, saying her protest was unacceptable and should not be tolerated. AIBA Executive Committee Bureau decided to provisionally suspend Mrs Laisham Sharita Devi, her coaches  and the Chef de Mission – India, who were all present at the Incheon 2014 Asian Games, and not to allow any of them to participate at all levels of AIBA Competitions, Events and Meetings until further notice.

To many her act of refusal (emotional though!) was correct and she had become a hero.  Instead of accepting the wrong decision, she protested making it known World over.  Sarita later offered an "unconditional apology" to AIBA for her actions – apologised because she did not want any other Indian boxer to suffer. She was graceful enough to say that she was not angry with Jina – but against the errant officials.  In essence, she exposed him. It was an elegant statement to those concerned that she rightfully deserved the medal she was denied of.   

To those who would jump to say that one need to follow rules at all times – remember when Mahatma Gandhi made salt,  it was against the law of the land.  It was a peaceful protest but strong message.  Sarita devi daringly protested against the rampant trouble – it is wrong to declare a loser.  The decision to ban her is unfortunate … and IBF, Sports Ministry and all should stand firmly against her.   After all, protests, for various causes — are not uncommon in sport.

In the 1968 Olympics at Mexico for instance, American sprinters Tommy Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Power salute from the victory podium.   But the consequences of a protest cannot undermine the cause itself. In 1981, Sunil Gavaskar, upset at the constant sledging by the Australians at Melbourne, almost became the first captain to concede a Test match.  Remember ‘smoke was coming out of my ears and I heard nothing’ comment !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

23rd Oct 2014.

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