‘With every word, I have died and survived’: Santhi’s moving letter to alleged harasser

Weeks after athlete Santhi Soundararajan alleged repeated caste-based and gender-based harassment by colleague Rajan Abraham, the police is yet to act on an FIR filed in the case.
‘With every word, I have died and survived’: Santhi’s moving letter to alleged harasser
‘With every word, I have died and survived’: Santhi’s moving letter to alleged harasser
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Santhi Soundararajan, the Indian athlete from Pudukkottai district, Tamil Nadu, has penned a moving letter to the man who, she alleges, has repeatedly harassed her at the state-run Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT).

A Dalit woman, Santhi complained to the authorities over the caste-based and gender-based discrimination that she has faced at the state’s premier sporting institution over the years. On October 1, Santhi made an official complaint to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC). Following an investigation by the NCSC, an FIR was lodged by the Chennai police. However, Rajan Abraham, the accused coach from the SDAT, is yet to be arrested.

In her complaint, Santhi said that Rajan would threaten to have her sacked, calling her by her caste name and asking why ‘dogs’ like her needed to partake in sports.

12 years later, nothing has changed

In an open letter to the fellow athlete and coach, Santhi asks, “Do you know how much you have humiliated and hurt me? Because of you, I cry everyday. Why are you torturing me alone? What sin did I commit against you?”

Santhi won the Asian Games silver medal at Doha in 2006. However, what followed the victory was humiliation on the international stage, all because of a discriminatory ‘gender’ determination test that says women who have higher levels of testosterone (hyperandrogenism) are not allowed to compete in women’s athletics events.

Santhi has alleged that Rajan has repeatedly used this 12-year-old incident against her, humiliating her every time she would use the restroom at work. In an interview that only corroborates Santhi’s account, Rajan told the Tamil weekly Kumudam earlier this month, “Firstly, Santhi is not a woman, but a man.”

While Santhi is still employed by the state government and is therefore, not authorised to speak to the media, this letter to her colleague comes after repeated requests to the authorities, police and those in the state’s Ministry for Youth Welfare and Sports Development failed.

‘If you had had a daughter like me, what would you do?’

Reflecting on how an athlete and coach she admired became an alleged harasser, Santhi writes, “I have watched you from a distance and up close for many years now. I have been in awe of you, I have been angered by you. I have no second opinion on the fact that you are a great Asian champion. I will boldly say that I too am an Asian champion, like you. I admire your courage but, I don’t like your nature. You forget very often that others are human too. Why do you forget that others also have self-respect?”

Santhi, who has been subject to humiliation over her medical condition for many years, asks Rajan, “Why don’t you realise that others have a heart and that it carries pain in it? You have not hurt just me, you have hurt many like me. If you had had a daughter like me, what would you do? Would you kill her? Or would you have thrown her away? If I should not have been born on this earth, why did the God who you worship, create me?”

Santhi asks Rajan whether he would ever have the courage to use similar words against women Olympians like Dutee Chand and Caster Semenya, who have also made it despite facing a similar situation.

She writes, “Every time you attack me with your words, I die each time; and survive.”

‘It’s enough if you realise your mistake’

Santhi writes, “It is not my intention to seek revenge on you, but my intention is to make you realise the mistakes you have made. It is enough for me if you think about your mistakes and regret them. It is enough if you apologise in front of everyone and God; the God that you worship will forgive and bless you.”

Responding to Rajan’s allegations that there are many complaints against her, Santhi says, “Whoever commits an offence, including me, is liable to punishment. Therefore, if I have made a mistake, I am ready to accept punishment.”

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