For the last couple of months, Swapna Barman has been spending her days off the tracks. She is busy spending quality time at home and looking after the construction work that has been going on at her house in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. Recently, the Arjuna Awardee found herself in a controversy over alleged illegal possession of timber. Her house was raided by forest department officials last week. The athlete clarified that she ‘did not steal’ anything.
The controversy was resolved on after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee intervened. Swapna is India’s first-ever heptathlete to win a gold medal at the Asian Games in Indonesia in 2018. She also clinched a gold medal in the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships.
This whole fiasco started when Swapna received a notice from the Forest Department for having ‘illegal’ timber at her house in Patkata area of Jalpaiguri. On Monday, she was interrogated by an official from the Belakoba Range and was asked to show official clearance for the wood being used to remodel the house. According to the officials, Swapna couldn’t produce a ‘satisfactory explanation’. and was hence sent a notice to submit the necessary documents. Swapna also said that she was being threatened with legal action.
What You Should Know
- Swapna Barman’s house in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal was raided by forest department officials
- She was accused of alleged illegal possession of timber but the athlete claimed innocence from the beginning
- Swapna Barman became India’s first-ever heptathlete to win a gold medal at the Asian Games in Indonesia in 2018
“These logs flow in the waters of Teesta river and people here make use of such logs. A local man gave us the timber at a reasonable price. I have paid only 50 percent of the money so far. I did not have any wrong intention. If I had stolen the timber, why would I keep it here and stay here to damage my reputation?” Swapna said in her defence on Tuesday, The Hindu reported. “Someone did this intentionally. The police (forest officials) made a video of the incident despite my request not to do so. They have given a 30-day notice to produce a supporting document (of the purchase),” she added.
Recounting her performance and how good of a sportsperson Swapna is, Mamata Banerjee had said in the past, “Sapna is a very good girl. A Rajbongshi girl. The pride of Bengal. I love her very much. The forest department has filed a case against her for illegally stockpiling timber. I didn’t know that before. I called her as soon as I found out. She talked to me. I told her not to worry about it,” News18 reported.
Adding that the government is unaware of any such activities conducted by the Forest Department, the CM explained, “The raid was carried out without informing anyone. He is being transferred to another place.”
Thanking the CM for her support, on Saturday, Swapna tweeted:
Thank you so much to our Honourable Chief Minister @MamataOfficial for all the support!!
— Swapna Barman (@Swapna_Barman96) July 18, 2020
The gold medallist has made an underrated sport famous in India. The Heptathlon is a mix of seven events — 100m, High Jump, 200m, Shot Put, Javelin Throw, Long Jump, and 800m. The six-toed (on each foot) athlete is the daughter of Panchanan Barman — a rickshaw-puller — who is bedridden for the past couple of years. Her mother, Basana Devi, works as a domestic help.
Feature Image Credit: Sportstarlive