A 15-year-old gold medallist swimmer who was training under coach Surajit Ganguly has accused him for allegedly molesting her through a YouTube video. The incident took place in Mapusa, Goa where the girl was training under Ganguly but it came to light after her performance degraded and her father confronted her about this. After the video went viral on social media, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju took cognizance of it.

He instructed the Sports Authority—Goa Swimming Association in this case—to take strict action against the coach on Twitter. In his next tweet on the issue which was in the morning of September 5, he announced the termination of Ganguly’s contract by Goa Swimming Association. “I’ve taken a strong view of the incident. The Goa Swimming Association has terminated the contract of coach Surajit Ganguly. I’m asking the Swimming Federation of India to ensure that this coach is not employed anywhere in India. This applies to all Federations & disciplines,” he tweeted.

“She won all the medals here in West Bengal under the training of Ganguly and she was very comfortable with him. He was like an idol for my sister and her parents and they were totally dependent on the coach for her performance. He had supported her and said that he will make a future for her and will coach her to swim for India.”

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The girl, who belongs to a village in Hooghly district of West Bengal, has been a competitive swimmer since the age of 10 and has won several medals in state and national-level competitions, Rohit Dey, her cousin told SheThePeople.TV. “This year also she participated in Goa but unfortunately couldn’t garner any rank. She was under the coaching of Mr Surajit Ganguly since she started to swim. He is a renowned coach in Bengal but he moved to Goa for some reason. And my sister’s coaching suffered a lot because there wasn’t any other coach available in West Bengal,” he says.

“She won all the medals here in West Bengal under the training of Ganguly and she was very comfortable with him. He was like an idol for my sister and her parents and they were totally dependent on the coach for her performance. He had supported her and said that he will make a future for her and will coach her to swim for India. So, when he shifted, my sister was adamant that she also wants to shift to Goa and train under him” he says adding, his maternal uncle, who worked as a school driver in West Bengal, sold off everything to move to Goa with family in March this year so that his sister could train under Ganguly.

The girl’s family including her father, mother and herself rented a house in Mapusa and she joined the swimming coaching classes under Ganguly. “In the last six months, my sister wasn’t performing well. She was missing her classes etc. Her parents scolded her and only then she broke down in front of them told them about the molestation incident but they couldn’t believe her at first,” Dey elaborated on the incident. He says that his sister made the video herself on August 28 and showed it to her parents.

“After watching the video, they were really shocked.  Since the coach is a renowned swimmer and was in a position of power over there, and since he couldn’t be trusted anymore, they decided to leave everything and return back to their native village the very next day,” Dey claims.

On asking how the video got on social media in the first place, he revealed, “She was very determined to expose him as the coach has molested other girls too but they couldn’t speak up.  So, my sister was adamant that she wants to break her silence on this issue.”

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The girl’s statement

In the video the girl who is speaking in Bengali can be heard saying (this is a rough translation), “Here are some unspoken truths from the sports industry. I am a National level gold medallist in swimming. In the sports industry, many such serious issues (she refers to sexual harassment cases) have happened before and no action was taken. Such incidences has happened with many girls but they kept it to themselves under the pressure of authorities. I am taking a stand today since I believe this has to stop.  It’s been going on with me for a while and I need to protest now. If I don’t there will be another victim soon.

I have been training under Surajit Sir since I was 10 years old. He helped me win national gold and other noteworthy medals. I went to Goa for a special practice session. My parents accompanied me and my father took up a job there for my sake. I practised there for six months during which his behaviour was never good. He used to harass me. He even touched me inappropriately. When I protested, he threatened me and said he’d destroy my career if I spoke about it to anybody. He said this is our little secret and that I shouldn’t say anything to my parents. During those six months, he’d come to my house or in the swimming pool and harass me. He’d grab my hands or touch my feet and try and make other inappropriate physical contacts. I pushed him and protested but he never stopped.

I want justice now. I went to the police station in West Bengal and they refused to register my complaint. They asked me to go to Goa and file a complaint there. I described my ordeal in Goa but they refused to take any action. I feel helpless now since I have run away from Goa and cannot gather the courage to go back there again and file a complaint. If I had stayed who knows what else he’d have done?”

Steps taken by the authorities

After reaching her native village on September 2, the parents approached the local police to file a complaint in the matter but the local police denied since it didn’t fall under their jurisdiction. However, a day later when the video went viral on social media the police station lodged a complaint. “A complaint against the coach has been lodged at the local police station where she belongs on Thursday. The father of the swimmer lodged the complaint. Now we will take legal steps against the accused,” said Humayun Kabir, commissioner of Chandannagar Police, HT reports.

Digambar Kamat, President of the Swimming Federation of India, and Goa Congress leader, said that the Sports Authority of Goa ‘derostered’ him right after it came across the video. He added that Ganguly wasn’t employed by Swimming Federation of India (SFI) or any of the other associations that come under SFI. However, he was working as an interim swimming coach at the authority because of the shortage of swimming coaches in Goa and the Sports Authority of Goa consented to requests from some parents to have him coach during specific hours.

“When the video surfaced we didn’t waste time and action was taken,” HT quoted Kamat.

Dey spoke to us about MoS Sports Ministry, Rijiju taking up the case and the termination of Ganguly’s contract by the SFI. He says, “It is only because Kiren Rijiju tweeted on this case that our FIR got registered and this case has received media attention. We are very thankful to him.” On asking if the family confronted Ganguly against the molestation, he refused and said that the family has got no support in Goa and they just returned back to their native place to ensure his sister’s safety.

The girl’s family including her father, mother and herself rented a house in Mapusa and she joined the swimming coaching classes under Ganguly. “In the last six months, my sister wasn’t performing well. She was missing her classes etc. Her parents scolded her and only then she broke down in front of them telling them about the molestation incident but they couldn’t believe at first,”

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Girl’s future

Now the question is what lies ahead for the gold medallist swimmer? “The family is in a very bad condition since they had to sell off everything here in West Bengal to go to Goa. They had wished that their daughter would swim for India one day and as far as my sister is concerned she also doesn’t have any other goal apart from swimming but the family is struggling financially now. If she gets adequate training, she will perform very well for the country.

Currently, we are just running from pillar to post first to the police station, then to register the case and then to fight for the case. We know the media will talk about it for a day and then will forget it. But we have a long fight ahead. We just want that her career does not get over,” Dey pleads.

Picture credit: Vinod Kapri/Twitter

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