Vandana Katariya, the seasoned forward in the Indian women’s hockey team, has been in Tokyo for the last three weeks and played an integral role in the nation’s pursuit for a medal. However, her family back home in Haridwar has been subjected to casteist remarks and abuses.
Some upper-caste members in their village of Roshnabad reportedly mocked Vandana's family after the semifinal defeat to Argentina, saying they lost because of Dalit players.
Vandana has more than 200 appearances for the national team and became the first Indian woman to score an Olympic hat-trick in India’s 4-3 win over South Africa last week.
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"Hum log country ke liye khel rahe hain aur sabhi matlab jo bhi kuch bhi ho raha hai, uske liye kuch bhi na karein, like caste-ing baazi jo maine thoda sa suna tha, woh sab na ho. Sirf hockey ke baare mein sochein aur country se even aur bhi young girls aur hum log country ke liye hi khel rahe hain toh hum sab ko ek hona chahiye matlab har cheez ko (We are playing for the country and whatever is happening, it shouldn't happen. I heard about the casteist remarks, and I wish it doesn’t happen and that people focus only on hockey. There are girls younger than me, and we are playing for the country, and we should all be united),” she said shortly after India’s 4-3 loss to Great Britain in their bronze medal match on Friday.
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Vandana has stayed away from her phone since coming to Tokyo and was yet to speak to her family.
The Indian team’s inspiring run at the Games has brought in renewed interest in hockey in India. And Vandana is proud of the team's campaign. “Our team has worked very hard for this, and I am really, really proud of them. We improved match by match and it feels really good,” she said.