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Netizens Enraged as Indian Women's Hockey Star Vandana Katariya's Family Receives Casteist Abuse

Taryn Mallett of South Africa contends with India's Vandana Katariya on 31 July 2021.
© REUTERS / CORINNA KERN

India's women's field hockey team has already made history in Tokyo, reaching their maiden Olympic semi-final in Japan's capital city. But despite their superlative performance at the Games, some people hurled casteist remarks against the family of the team's star player, Vandana Katariya, on Wednesday.

Netizens were left enraged by reports that the family of Vandana Katariya - the Indian women's hockey team star - was subjected to casteist abuse by two local upper-caste men in her home town Haridwar, a holy place in the country's northern state of Uttarakhand.

A few questioned their mindset but others slammed the two persons for their shameful act.

The incident occurred despite India's spectacular performance at the Tokyo Olympics which has attracted praise from millions of Indians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Several Indian media organisations reported that the incident happened soon after India lost their semi-final contest against Argentina at Tokyo's Oi Hockey Stadium.

Katariya's family, however, said they feel proud of her despite the lost game.  

"We were upset after the loss. But the team went down fighting. We were proud of that," Katariya's brother Shekhar told local media on Thursday.

"Suddenly, right after the match, we heard loud noises. Crackers were being burst outside our house. When we went outside, we saw two men from our village - whom we know, and they are upper castes - dancing in front of our house."

"They used caste slurs, insulted our family and said the Indian team lost because too many 'Dalits' [a caste slur applied to India's so-called 'Untouchables'] made it onto the team. They carried on by saying not just hockey but every sport should keep Dalits out," he added.

One of the accused has been detained after Shekhar reported the incident to the police.

In India's largely Hindu society, caste is an ancient form of social structure, wherein Hindus are divided into four main categories - Brahmins (priests), then Kshatriyas (warriors), through to Vaishyas (skilled workers) and the Shudras (unskilled workers) at the bottom. These four categories are further divided into sub-castes.

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