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When Varnas Decide The Jersey Colour

Ethnic sports can at times kick up a caste spirit that rules rural India. It may spill on to even the scorers.

When Varnas Decide The Jersey Colour
Upside Down | Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
When Varnas Decide The Jersey Colour
outlookindia.com
2017-05-06T09:45:17+05:30

Bittoo Singh did not mean to take an all-Dalit team to a kab­addi tournament. It just so happened that late in summer 2016 the teams that confron­ted one another in Gurgaon’s Chakkarpur village were his Dalit boys facing off against the Yadavs of nearby Sikandarpur.

The tournament, with over 30 teams participating, was meant to get villages in and around the National Capital Region to engage with each other through kaba­ddi matches. Never were these encounters painted as a battle of the castes by the teams or organisers, though from the very beginning the caste composition of many teams was apparent. There were Dalits and Jats, Brahmins and Yadavs, Rajputs and others, representing teams sent by different villages.

This was reminiscent of another time and place in Indian sporting history—colonial cricket—when teams were often ranged against each other by ethnicity and along communitarian lines. The participating teams in upcountry Gurgaon all these years later, by all accounts, couldn’t care less about each others’ caste...

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