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Sympathy or lack of proof?

Sympathy or lack of proof?

Exactly one year ago, a news article regarding Nepal’s young achiever drew national and international attention. Nepal’s star cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane was accused of sexual coercion and a police case was filed against him. It was a shock to many as the then captain of the national cricket team who had represented in international cricket matches had been alleged for a serious crime. People who had already followed Paul Shah’s almost similar case speculated two possible scenarios. Some believed the celebrities were abusing their stardom to make women/adolescent girls their victims while others believed the stars were being framed. 

Paul Shah served a jail sentence for a year and was released only when the accuser changed her statement but in Lamichhane’s case, nothing seems to be moving. When the police case was filed against him, he did not immediately return to Nepal. Nepal Police had to seek Interpol’s support to track him. The Cricket Association of Nepal did suspend him after the allegations surfaced, but it didn’t take them long to welcome him after he was released on bail. He continues to take part in national and international matches, and we don’t know yet if he is guilty or innocent. In fact, a pattern is noticeable in his case. 

Before any cricket event approaches, the media come up with reports predicting the possibility of Lamichhane joining or not joining the match. First, the media report that Lamichhane may not be able to take part in so and so game. Second, the headlines change and mention CAN requesting authorities to allow him to play in the tournament. The Supreme Court also lifted a travel ban on him so he could play abroad. Finally, the news of Lamichhane leaving for that game appears in the media. Hearings on his case continue to be delayed. Sometimes, they cite lack of time or even judges, and at other times, there are alleged stories of fake documents. One year on, there’s no verdict. Are these attempts to delay the process so that there is less attention or is our judicial system indeed slow? 

If we all believe in the justice system, the truth has to be told in a fair and timely manner. His cricket skills should not be considered more important than the truth. If he committed a crime, he should be punished; if he is innocent, that needs to be shared soon. 

Just a month ago, Spain won the FIFA Women’s World Cup. As the world was watching Spanish footballers being congratulated at the trophy ceremony, a man was seen hugging and kissing the women footballers rather uncomfortably. This was being broadcast live on television around the world. Even I felt the hugs did not have to be that tight and the kisses could have been on cheeks. As the commentators mentioned who he was, I thought they shared a journey together and their closeness permitted that level of affection. 

But it didn’t take long for Jenni Hermoso to talk about the unwanted kiss in the media and termed it ‘not consensual’. Then, the drama unfolded when Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation, refused to acknowledge his act and refused to back down. There were widespread criticisms of what was named as the kissgate scandal. Even the manager of England’s women’s football team dedicated her Coach of the Year Award to the World Cup winning Spanish team in solidarity with the issues raised by the team. Rubiales resigned, eventually. 

Spain did the right thing by taking timely actions against the complaints. They have even tried to address issues of inequalities and misogyny existing in the football sector in a month’s time. And here in Nepal, we have already waited for a year to see the conclusion of an alleged rape case involving a high-level cricketer and a minor. Let’s hope the newly-elected team of the Cricket Association of Nepal takes the credibility and morality of its players seriously. Let us also hope that judges will be “available” for the hearings and justice delivered equally to everyone, be it a popular player or an ordinary citizen.