Shillong, Jul 12: Former India No. 1 tennis player Somdev Devvarman lashed out at casteism, racism and police brutality in India, recounting some of his own experiences in an interview with the Indian Express.
The Guwahati-born Tripura native moved to Chennai at the age of 8 to focus on tennis and says he stood out from the start.
“I was called a watchman. My nickname was ‘Bahadur’ – people said that all my life. I felt a little bad. As an Indian, you can’t tell me that we are not colour conscious,” Devvarman, who reached a high of No. 62 in the world, said.
The former Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold medallist added, “I had friends, with whom I grew up, who wouldn’t eat at the same table as me because they were Brahmins.”
In the interview Devvarman also tackled police brutality witnessed in India.
“Police brutality in India is off the charts. It’s horrible. It’s simply a misuse of power… Just now, there is a case happening in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. The other day, there was another case of an auto-rickshaw driver tortured by the police in Tamil Nadu. And the worst bit is that none of this is shocking to us. Why is this okay?” he said.
The issue of police brutality and racism has come to the fore globally after the death of George Floyd, an African-American victim in the US. Devvarman, who went to university in America, said that while it’s important to speak out on the injustice happening in the US, it’s important not to turn a blind eye to similar instances in India.
“Of course black lives matter. No doubt, what’s going on in America is absolutely wrong. But we have been quiet about cases of police brutality in India and about other issues like casteism and racism in our country,” he said.
It is extremely rare in India for sportspersons to speak out against homegrown issues, but this does not come as a surprise to Devvarman, who retired from professional tennis in 2017.
“It is a combination of fear and hope. If people are afraid of speaking against a certain government, then they are afraid. Whichever government was in power, the athletes were not speaking out,” he said.
(Photo: Somdev Devvarman/Facebook)