Former India badminton player Jwala Gutta has condemned the attack on students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) while also lashing out at the perpetrators of the attack.
She has called out to fellow sportspersons to come out and protest against the violence that has consumed society over the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.
In the field of sports, the 36-year-old has opened her own badminton academy, the Jwala Gutta Academy, with a view to training budding talent and moulding them into promising professionals.
In an interview with NAKSHATRA PAIN, Gutta talked about the unrest in the country, safety of women and the growth of badminton in India.
Q: What is your view on the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the protests that followed?
A: The situation is horrible. There is so much violence, people are dying, and it is unlike anything we have ever seen. Such violence should not be tolerated and everyone, no matter what their status in society, should come out and condemn this.
Q: What can you, as a sportsperson, do in a situation like this?
A: I have said it before: as sportspersons, we are the ambassadors of peace in our country. If now we do not try and use our influence to bring peace and harmony among the citizens, then what good are we? It is not just me; everyone should join hands.
Q: What would you say about the recent attack on students at the JNU campus?
A: I had tweeted asking why the guilty ones were not caught and punished. It is unbelievable how they were let off so easily. They attack the sanctity of an educational institution, which is unpardonable. I hope that they are severely punished.
Q: What would you say about the safety of women in the country?
A: I think women who raise their voices and have their own opinions are still frowned upon and they are not very safe either, whether it be on the streets or on the social media platform. They are still not accepted with open arms. If you talk about sports, the condition of women is definitely better nowadays. They are being followed, valued and their efforts are being appreciated. More and more women are stepping out on the field.
Q: Speaking of sports, you have often said that there is just one Saina Nehwal and one PV Sindhu. You yourself opened a badminton academy, so how do you think we can churn out more Sainas and Sindhus?
A: We need to have more facilities. Badminton coaching centres are largely privatised. I wanted to develop existing government facilities in Hyderabad. I gave them the proposal back in 2013 but there was no positive response, so I had to come up with my own academy. It is because of things like these that badminton has become an expensive sport which only privileged people are able to play. That is why I have arranged for my academy to also take in underprivileged children and give them facilities for playing the sport, alongside providing them with education. This is the only way forward for the sport in India.
Q: What are the differences you see in the sport now, as compared to back when you played?
A: Honestly speaking, I do not think I would have been able to afford to train at an academy. The government should definitely improve their facilities. But my father was a Reserve Bank of India clerk, and I do not think I would have been able to play the sport had I started off now.
Q: How is your academy selecting the underprivileged who would get a shot at playing the sport?
A: What I want to do is have a yearly tournament for these kids in the under-10 and under-13 categories, pick out players from there and give them coaching and education. So, basically it is scouting of players for my academy.
Q: How much of an influence do you think a tournament like the Premier Badminton League (PBL) has on the sport?
A: PBL should be taking players who are not part of any famous academy. The answer goes back to giving one person all kinds of power. So, people who do not belong to an academy are not getting opportunities.
Q: As a player, what made you stick to playing doubles instead of singles?
A: It just happened automatically for me. I was enjoying playing doubles and I found out no one understands doubles better than me. I think I am the only player who played with anybody and everybody and produced results.
Q: Who has been the best doubles partner for you and why?
A: It has got to be (Valiyaveetil) Diju. He understood me as a person and we never even had any argument. He was like my brother. I could shout at him, play spoilsport with him and he would still get back to me. So, he was a true partner in every sense and I really miss him whenever I get on to the court and want to play. I wish he was a little fitter and had more time to play the sport. I have played my best badminton with Diju.