//India starts Commonwealth with shame medal

India starts Commonwealth with shame medal

India made headlines at the Commonwealth Games even before the starter’s pistol with the arrest of Diwan Asgar Nabi, a masseur attached to the contingent in Melbourne, on charges of indecent assault of a teenager. Nabi, this paper has learned, was not part of the original list of masseurs but was included on the recommendation of a top Sports Authority of India official.

He was not attached with any specific team but with the contingent in general.

Incidentally, the government had vetoed Nabi’s name before the Athens Olympics; he was attached with the boxing team before his name was struck off.

Though most of India’s sporting establishment was in Melbourne, the news spread gloom among those who remained at home. ‘‘It’s really shocking and I’m keeping my fingers crossed,’’ said Shakeel Qureshi, Secretary in the Sports ministry. ‘‘Already our hands are full with doping scandals and now this embarrassment…as if we were desperately waiting for something like this to happen.’’

Nabi, in his early 30s, was released on bail by a local court in Melbourne and is now in custody at the Indian Embassy, whose lawyer will defend him when he is presented before the magistrate tomorrow. Victoria State police have charged Nabi with one count of indecent assault and another of unlawful assault. If found guilty, Nabi faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

The Melbourne Age quoted Craig Lovett, the executive director of Cleanevent, which has the contract for cleaning at the village, as saying that the company’s policy was to have at least two staff in a room at all times. He said the alleged incident happened within seconds when the girl’s work partner, a school vice-principal in his forties, stepped outside the room to collect a towel. ‘‘They realised they were one towel short and he went out to get a towel off the trolley just outside in the corridor and the alleged incident happened in that short period of time,’’ Lovett said. Nabi, say sources, has denied the allegations and is believed to have said he was attempting to take a photograph of himself and the victim.

A familiar face to those covering sports in Patiala, Nabi has been contracted with SAI for over nine years now and has been on several foreign tours before.

He is officially attached with the health centre of the NIS, and his brief was to attend to the sportspersons staying there, but he was more often attending to the various officials who visit.

SAI officials in Patiala said they weren’t sure of his professional qualifications but pointed out that he was generally more active prior to big events like the Asian Games. ‘‘He is always keen to go abroad with the teams’’, said an official. To that end, he would cultivate contacts among officials, even senior politicians and bureaucrats in the state government. Journalists in Patiala would get phone calls from VVIPs requesting articles in favour of Nabi. How good was he as a masseur? ‘‘Not very professional, okay in his work’’, said one SAI official. ‘‘But had merit alone been the criteria for boarding a flight to Melbourne, he wouldn’t have had gone.’’ What happensto him now? Since Nabi is on contract, sacking him won’t be a problem for SAI. Qureshi said it would depend on the progress of the case. ‘‘But if found guilty we will definitely sack him. He has already been put on suspension.’’