Dangal sisters’ cousin Ritika Phogat found dead in suspected suicide

While police say Ritika was depressed over losing a state-level championship by one point; mental health experts say teens like her with famous relatives are under immense pressure to win at any cost

A resident of Jaitpur village in Jhunjhunu of Rajasthan, Ritika had been training under Mahavir Phogat at his school the Mahavir Phogat Sports Academy in Haryana for the past five years.

Haryana Police on Thursday (March 18) started investigating the death of 17-year-old wrestler Ritika Phogat, which prima facie appears to be a suicide.

Ritika is the cousin of the Phogat sisters and wrestlers Geeta and Babita, on whom the 2016 Amir Khan-starrer Dangal was based.

Reports said Ritika was found hanging from a ceiling fan at the house of her uncle and famous wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, also Geeta and Babita’s father, on Monday night.

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Police say Ritika was upset over her defeat in a recent state-level wrestling competition held at Bharatpur between March 12 and 14, by just one point.

A resident of Jaitpur village in Jhunjhunu of Rajasthan, Ritika had been training under Mahavir Phogat at his school the Mahavir Phogat Sports Academy in Haryana for the past five years.

Mahavir Phogat along with Ritika’s father had reportedly accompanied her to the bout.

“Ritika, wrestler and cousin of Babita Phogat, died allegedly by suicide on March 17. The reason behind it might have been her defeat at a recent wrestling tournament in Rajasthan. Investigations are underway,” ANI quoted Ram Singh Bishnoi, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Charkhi Dadri as saying.

While Mahavir Phogat is a recipient of the prestigious Dronacharya Award, his eldest daughter Geeta, a freestyle wrestler won India’s first gold medal in the sport at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and is also the first Indian woman wrestler to have qualified for Olympics in 2012. Babita has bagged a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, a bronze at the 2010 World Wrestling Championships and a gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Mental health experts says at time when India records the highest number of suicides among youths, teens like Ritika, belonging to families with distinguished titles, are under immense pressure to live up to the expectations of winning at any cost.

“India recorded the highest number of suicide deaths among youths in the last five years. We want the best. We are tough on our children. We never care about their mental health. This has been proved again and again, but nothing happened. We see students die by suicide after failing in competitive exams. Ritika’s death is the same,” said Rashmi Gupta, a psychologist based out of Haryana.

“No one teaches how to deal with failures in India. In fact, failure is a sin. Ritika, who had wrestlers like Geeta and Babita in her family, must felt the pressure of winning at any cost. After losing, people might have teased her taking the name of her cousins. These things took a toll on her mental health,” added Gupta.

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