Friday, 10 October 2014

`Netas pose for pix with champs, do little for women'

BALALI: At a rally in Hisar, PM Narendra Modi congratulated Haryana's sportspersons for their Asian Games successes, but the state's iconic women wrestlers Geeta and Babita Phogat say politicians hardly do enough for sports or for women in Haryana.

Geeta, winner of a Delhi CWG gold medal, says politicians only pose for photographs with sportspersons. But she's hopeful PM Modi will be different. "There's so much discrimination against women in Haryana. Despite being a CWG champion I've been offered a police inspector's rank, my sister that of a sub-inspector. Don't we deserve better, DSP rank perhaps? Babita still hasn't been given an Arjuna Award.We've overcome big hurdles to reach where we are today."

Their father, Mahaveer, says politicians don't want to change the patriarchal nature of Haryanvi society . They pander to traditional values for votes. "I faced resistance from my village when I encouraged my daughters to take up wrestling. Politicians don't want to challenge entrenched attitudes, don't want to campaign for change. Women politicians vow to uphold the village's maan-maryada and reeti-riwaz. They don't question attitudes."

The sisters say sport is one way women can unshackle themselves. Haryana has the country's lowest sex ratio and khap panchayats are known to target young women if they show a streak of independence. "I wear jeans and shorts, travel ledon my own to Mumbai for my knee surgery .I go to Delhi when I want. Being a sportsperson liberates me from the Haryana's bhed bhav," Geeta says. Sport's given her confidence, helped her speak her mind. "Haryana's girls shouldn't be afraid to challenge the system, raise their voice. Women sportspersons like Krishna Poonia, Seema Antil are role models.''

While politics here remains the preserve of wom en from powerful families, sports is proving a road to liberation for many . "More women should join politics," says Geeta, "parties should give tickets to more women, especially those from humble backgrounds." This time, Haryana has a record 109 women contesting. Promi nent faces though are from political families, VIP wives and mothers. "Women politicians are good but social change must take place in Haryana," Babita says. "If it wasn't for our father, we'd never have come this far.Many girls here are as talented as we are, if not more, but their parents won't let them join wrestling. Women politicians can't change that."

At Captain Jora Singh's Jhajjar akhada, the mood is anti-politician. "Haryana is known for its tradition of kushti," says retired army man Captain Singh. "Politicians seldom get us facilities, equipment. There's no system to find wrestling talent. Girls like Geeta and Babita rely on family support and often girls don't even get that."

The sisters are in no rush to get married. They want to win medals, maybe even at the Olympics and start a sports academy . While sportswomen march ahead, the state's feudal, dynastic politicians can only hope to play catch up.

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