Chess Champion Dronavalli Harika on headscarf rule in Iran: I do not see it as a religious issue
By Vijay Tagore, Mumbai Mirror | Updated: Aug 5, 2018, 12:40 IST
Dronavalli Harika, who spearheaded a sterling Indian performance in Asian Cup Chess for women in Iran, rues such controversies cloud their feats.
The Indian women’s chess team is returning with a rich haul of medals from the championship that Soumya Swaminathan famously boycotted protesting the rule to wear headscarf in the host country. At the Women’s Asian Nations Cup that concluded in Hamedan, Iran, yesterday, the Dronavalli Harika-led team won a gold, silver and a bronze in the team championships and returned with a handful of individual board medals as well.
Harika herself has bagged a gold, silver and bronze in board prizes besides of course leading India to the gold medal in blitz ahead of strong contenders China. In the classical and rapid categories, the Indian women have won bronze and silver respectively with R Vaishali, the sister of R Praggnanandhaa, getting two individual medals. Aakanksha Hagawane, Padmini Raut and Eeasha Karavade have also won board medals.
Speaking before leaving for India from Tehran, Harika said it was a satisfying outing for her simply because she has had to balance time for her marriage and championship preparation. Her marriage is in Hyderabad on August 19. “Personally, it’s satisfying as I was busy and couldn’t touch chess for the past two months due to my marriage preparations. That I managed to do well amid all this is really gratifying,” the 27-year-old said.
About a month before the tournament, Soumya pulled out protesting against the headscarf rule in Iran. “I do not wish to be forced to wear a headscarf or burqa. I find the Iranian law of compulsory headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic human rights, including my right to freedom of expression and right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is to not go to Iran,” she had said.
Harika, however, has asserted that the burqa controversy did not affect her and she has had no problems abiding by the Iranian rule. “I don’t see it as a religious issue. For me it’s just a scarf, which we have to wear due to the national rule in Iran. It’s up to each individual. For me playing for India and playing chess is more important. I played for 20 days in Iran world championship continuously. The only thing matters is chess and I have to perform in whichever circumstance I am given.”
Harika has felt that such controversies tend to cloud their performances often. “She (Sowmya) is my friend and that’s her opinion and I completely respect that. We even had conversation on this. She has stood by what she felt is correct and I am doing what I feel is important for me. But before going to Iran every time, I get calls about abaya and how I feel and what do I think about that. After winning something in Iran, I won’t be getting as many calls about my achievements. We do go there to fight and get results for the country. Somewhere in this abaya issue, that (the results) gets suppressed,” she rued.