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Exclusive: From stalking and sexual harassment to sharing secret files, Haryana coach says Minister did it all

While Junior Athletics Coach Siksha Dagar has gone on to narrate her experiences with the Minister, in an exclusive conversation with The Probe’s Chander Shekhar Luthra, another woman athlete has alleged harassment by the Minister. Says, “I have handed over some of the screenshots to Siksha that she can produce as evidence before the court to prove her case”.

By Chander Shekhar Luthra
New Update

publive-image Haryana Minister Sandeep Singh | Photo courtesy: Sandeep Singh | Facebook

For Siksha Dagar, her first encounter with former Indian hockey star Sandeep Singh was when she watched the Hindi sports biopic ‘Soorma’, made on the life of the star player who later became a Minister with the Haryana government.

Siksha was a 400-metre runner aspiring to be an athletics coach then. She claims the movie inspired all those athletes who, at some point in time, have suffered injuries or life-threatening situations in their careers. “Being confined to a wheelchair and then returning to normal life was no less than a miracle,” says Siksha in an exclusive conversation with The Probe.

For the next three-and-half years or so, Siksha claims she lived with this false image of a player-turned-politician of Haryana (whom she had not met), who eventually became the Sports Minister in the Manohar Lal Khattar government in 2019 after getting elected from Pehowa constituency in Kurukshetra from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Siksha, on the other hand, was struggling with her own professional life. Having been promised a rank as an Inspector at the Income Tax Office in Chandigarh, where she joined in 2018, she was confined to doing the job at a junior level, prompting her to quit. The 1991-born athlete from Panchkula (Haryana) was keen to find a job around her hometown where she could continue to concentrate on her training.

Siksha’s first contact with Sandeep occurred on February 27, 2022 when she wished him “Happy Birthday” on Instagram. “He had seen my story, and I received a notification on my mobile. And when I clicked on the notification, I got to know that it was his birthday, and I wished him “Happy Birthday”. As a junior player, I thought that it was sir’s birthday, and I replied to him. To my surprise, he replied immediately,” narrates Siksha.

“After a day or so, the Minister sent me a message to join Snapchat. And to my surprise, he put me on ‘vanish mode’ (where chats get deleted after a certain period). He, then, started the conversation, which was mostly confined to my figure and height.”

As Siksha was looking for other government jobs, she also applied for the post of “Junior Athletics Coach” in the Haryana sports department. However, her first real encounter with Sandeep was on March 2, 2022, at his residence. “I was told to come during the evening hours, and I got suspicious. But I knew that he was the Sports Minister, and I must trust him and finally decided to go there”.

Siksha continues, “The Minister used to tell me that the Director (of sports) had not put my name on the list of joinees. In May, the Minister shared that confidential list with me and told me that he had added my name to the list and that my job was guaranteed. He then started pressuring me to come and meet him at his residence/office in Sector 7, Chandigarh, in the evening hours. The Minister even told me that this list was only with him and the CM, and he asked me not to leak the list or else he would land in trouble".

Interestingly, all those names that allegedly figured in the list that Sandeep shared confidentially with Siksha in May figured in the final list. “I have the screenshot of that chat where he shared the list and have submitted it to the police,” informs Siksha.

“Unfortunately, my national participation certificate was misplaced by my federation, and I was to produce that to the authorities for my job. The Minister called me to his residence on July 1 to discuss all this, and I was left with no option but to consent. During the meeting he tried to rape me. He tore my t-shirt and forced himself upon me but I somehow managed to escape as the door was unlocked”. The encounter has been explained in the FIR filed by the Chandigarh Police, where Siksha alleges that the Minister attempted to rape her.

“Since the last 3-4 months, I have been disturbed due to the actions of Sports Minister Sandeep Singh. When I went to his residence on July 1, 2022, with all my documents, he called me to his cabin and touched me inappropriately. When I resisted, he told me, ‘You make me happy, and I will make you happy’. I rushed out and told the police officials present there, but nobody helped me,” reads her complaint to the police.

When asked why she had not approached the police when the incident occurred, she says, “I told my close friend about the entire incident. But she advised me to keep a distance from the Minister and focus on my work as he, being a Minister, could harm me.”

As Siksha started keeping her distance from Sandeep, she claims the latter started intimidating her. She alleges she was transferred to Jhajjar, where three athletic coaches were working, leaving her no space to work.

“As I officially became a Haryana government employee, the minister thought I would go to him for help, and that’s how I was told that I had been transferred to Jhajjar (for which no letter was given to me to date). I refused to take his help. He then started stalking me. As and when I used to go to the gymnasium at the Tau Devi Lal complex, I found out that he also used to come there after a while. I could sense that someone from there was keeping him posted about my movements. When I visited in the mornings, he would also come at that time. When I went in the evenings, he would also come in the evenings. When I worked out twice, he would come twice. When I missed the gym, he would miss it too.”

Siksha alleges that the Minister knew the details of the complaint she lodged against him with a senior government official. “I was totally shocked and wondered how he got to know about my confidential personal emails. Even when I went to meet Home Minister Anil Vij at his office on December 28, someone from his staff informed Sandeep about it. The Minister (Sandeep) immediately called me from his personal number, told me that all my demands would be met, and asked me to return immediately. That time I was very angry and shocked, and I shouted and asked him, ‘Why are you playing these kinds of shit games with me?’. I asked him to stop this. I told him I would meet Vij sir today. I told him that he was mentally torturing me, and he had to stop it. This was my last conversation with him.”

A week after the controversial Haryana Minister was booked on charges of sexual harassment, the Governor of Haryana Bandaru Dattatraya stripped him of the Sports and Youth Affairs portfolio. The government notification mentions that Sandeep Singh will continue to be the Minister of State for Printing and Stationery (Independent Charge).

While Sandeep Singh was unavailable to comment, his personal staff answered his mobile, saying, “The matter is sub-judice, and the Minister will not comment on the issue”.

“When all her statements under Sections 160, 161, and 164 have been recorded, and the SIT (Special Investigation Team) has even recreated a scene at the Minister’s residence/office, then what is stopping police from questioning the Minister? Till date, the Minister has neither been arrested nor asked to appear for questioning,” says Siksha’s lawyer, Deepanshu Bansal.

Though no police officers on the case have gone on record, a senior officer, part of the SIT, told The Probe on condition of anonymity that “the investigation is currently on, and everyone should know that no person, whosoever he or she is, would be spared”.

When asked why the Minister in question had not been called for questioning, the officer said: “We know how to proceed. First, let us complete one side of the investigation, and then we can proceed further. Our job is to make the case stronger and not go by the public opinion.”

The Probe has also learned that Siksha is in touch with a few other female athletes and coaches who have alleged that they have faced similar harassment. One of the female athletes, who has requested to remain anonymous, revealed to The Probe, “I have handed over some of the screenshots to Siksha that she can produce as evidence before the court to prove her case”.

“Few other girls are also in touch with us and are providing us with evidence regarding similar awkward situations faced by them. But since he is still the Minister and the CM of the state is openly siding with him, they are scared to come out in the open,” says Siksha’s lawyer, Deepanshu Bansal.

ChandrashekharChander Shekhar Luthra is a cricketer turned senior sports journalist based in Delhi. He is an ex Ranji player and he has more than 27 years of experience in covering various sporting events. Apart from covering ICC Cricket World Cups along with many other series across the world, he is known for his insightful coverage of the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympic Games and the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon, South Korea.