The fifth round of the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC), one of India’s oldest motorsport events, was marred by an incident involving the organisers and the local police. A video has also since surfaced where a policeman is seen trying to physically assault the race organiser.
On September 11, the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India, the governing body for motorsports in India, along with Racecraft, a motorsport management company, organised the fifth round of INRC near Hyderabad. At around 12.30 pm, while the second stage of the off-road rally event was taking place, local police arrived at one section of the track and tried stopping the rally.
According to the Circle Inspector of Manchal Police Station, M Gangadhar, the police tried to intervene because a part of the track selected for the race fell under their jurisdiction and necessary permission had not been taken for conducting the race.
Meanwhile, participants have claimed, over phone and through their Facebook posts, that the Circle Inspector took all the participants to the police station, and kept them there until nearly 9 pm. The participants have also claimed that the police tried to stop the rally by throwing rocks at some of the participants. The organiser, Mazdayar K Vatcha, CEO of Racecraft, was also physically assaulted, as seen in the video and claimed by the other participants.
Mazdayar told indianexpress.com he had all the necessary permissions from the Sarpanch and the Narayanpur Police Station, under whose jurisdiction most of the track fell into. “We had taken all the necessary permissions, and this being an FMSCI regulated event, we had also undertaken all necessary precautions for safety of the riders and also anyone around it. The reason why this event was organised outside the city is because rallies are supposed to be organised off the road and also away from populous areas for safety concerns,” said Mazdayar. “The only problem was that a small section of the track came under Manchal Police Station’s jurisdiction, and we had no idea of knowing that because such areas are not demarcated. We had every other necessary permission.”
He also claims that the Narayanpur SI went along with him to the race venue in the process of obtaining the permissions, as he was very curious about what kind of event this was, and gave the permission after checking everything was in order.
We asked CI M Gangadhar as to why he tried assaulting Mazdayar, and he said that it was because the latter “wasn’t complying”. The video shows Gangadhar dragging Mazdayar by his jersey and then trying to slap him.
Alex Joseph, 29, a participant of the event told us over phone that all the riders were taken to the police station, including female participants, and kept there until 9.30 pm. The female participants were apparently let go after the other participants and organisers had pleaded the police to let them go. They claim that no female constable or officer was present while taking the female participants to the station. CI M Gangadhar claims that this is false.
Video: Hyderabad cop slapping bike rally organiser
According to Mazdayar, he had asked the police to take only him and the other organisers to the station, as they were responsible for the event and not the participants, but apparently the CI was adamant that everyone present, along with their bikes, be taken to the police station.
Shyam Kothari, one of the officials marshalling the race, said: “FMSCI is a very professional body and INRC is one of the most coveted events in Indian motorsports. We are very strict about all sorts of safety, and under no circumstances are we ready to compromise on anyone’s safety during any of our events. We had given the race a go-ahead only after checking every permission and all the safety measures. This wasn’t some unprofessional event.” FMSCI is also a member of FIM and FIA, the global governing bodies for motorsports, including Formula 1, MotoGP, World Superbike Championship and World Rally Championship.
Killing the sport
Alex Joseph, one of the participants, said that an incident like this, although unheard of before, would bring a lot of negative impact to the sport, which is already misunderstood. “Rallying is a very expensive and intensive sport, and the athletes participating in such events depend on sponsor money. An incident like this, where the police openly manhandles the organisers, would undermine the sport and sponsors would back out, making it even more difficult to participate.”
Shyam Kothari, himself a seven-time champion in different disciplines of motorsports, also voiced his concern over this incident. “The riders were treated like criminals. If there was any problem with the event, the police should have dealt only and properly with the organisers. There was no need to take the riders and keep them for so long.”
The participants also claimed that the police threw rocks at them to stop them. One Facebook post also claims that the Inspector’s weapon was unholstered. “All this is false. Let them say. Let them come forward and say all this,” said Gangadhar. Mazdayar has been booked under Section 189 of the Motor Vehicle Act, according to Gangadhar.