Ace badminton player Jwala Gutta, who has represented India at the highest level in mixed and women’s doubles events, has condemned the recent acts of racism against the north-east people of the country during the time of coronavirus and also spoken about her personal encounter with racist abuses on social media platforms.
Jwala Gutta, who hails from a mixed origin, was born to a Chinese mother and a Telugu father. The celebrated athlete revealed that she has been called ‘half-corona’ because of her Chinese mother.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has now taken lives of more than 76,000 lives worldwide, originated in Wuhan, China, before becoming a global crisis. Since then, there has been a lot of hateful abuse against the Chinese people.
Not just this, north-eastern people in India have also been subjected to harassment and discrimination in the country.
Indiatoday.in spoke to Jwala Gutta about the racist acts in the country amid the Covid-19 crisis and also asked the shuttler how she has been spending time during the lockdown.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Q: Your views on the racist abuse against Northeastern people? Have you experienced any racism in your growing up years or in the current time?
Jwala Gutta: I saw on social media that some people spat on a North-eastern girl and that sort of disturbed me. Also I am very active on social media. I write what I feel. I could be wrong sometimes to my understanding. And I feel it is my responsibility to speak. After this coronavirus thing, people started calling me half-corona on Twitter.
Social media has become very prominent in the last 10 years and very aggressive in the last 10 years. When it comes to trolling on face, I do not think all of these people have any courage because their point is lost once they start name-calling you. So they do not have the courage to tell me and say something on my face.
I come from a generation where I did not have any knowledge about racism, trolling or degrading someone because we hardly used to do it to other people.
So when people used to call me chinki’ I thought that okay maybe my mother is Chinese so they are calling me that. It was only in my 20s, when I travelled to the north-east that I realised that it was racist and that the north-easterners were called this and they were not considered Indians just because of the way they look.
Jwala Gutta (3rd from left) was born to a Telugu father and a Chinese mother (Reuters Photo)
People’s lack of empathy is making them do this. And now I think, we should stop tolerating it and the cyber policing should become more stringent and reprimand such people who are being communal and making racist comments. It is as good as committing a crime. We have started tolerating so much that there is no fear right now.
Q: How are you spending time in quarantine?
Jwala: I am with my parents and trying to train at least once a day. And just keeping myself busy, watching a lot of series and spending time with parents and washing utensils and just helping out. And just looking at it positively.
Q: Feeling the void with no live sporting event going on?
Jwala: Really, no. I am 35 and I have played the sport for 30 years, so I do not think I am missing the sport. I have been in sport since 1990 and I am not missing any sport right now. I am enjoying my time.
Q: Do you see people around you following the lockdown? (Jwala is currently in Hyderabad)
Jwala: There is a lot of discipline. There are a lot of people going out to buy groceries but that is a necessity. But one thing I do not understand is, I see a lot of people jogging on the road. So I do not understand that and the same educated lot is blaming one community that they are spreading the virus. So what about these people who are not sitting at home and think the whole city has become a joggers’ park. That is very wrong.
Q: Your thoughts on Tokyo Olympic postponement?
Jwala: I think it won’t benefit players as you will only grow one year older. For a sportsperson, 1 year is a long period. Now how they prepare mentally. For every sports person it is a dream to participate in the Olympics. So when the news came out a lot of players were disappointed and I completely understand that because I have played two Olympics and I know the pressure. But there was no other choice. Now players will have to push their focus for another year. Now in lockdown you cannot even get out of your house so I think there is a lot of distress. More than physically, I think they should be mentally strong.