Wrestlers vs. Rulers: Losing faith versus losing LS seats

Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

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Evidently the choice before the ruling dispensation is to either earn the ire of a vote catcher like Brij Bhushan or to ignore the petition by the wrestlers.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 75th anniversary of independence last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged people to pledge not to do anything that lowers the dignity of women.

He had said that respect for women is an important pillar for India’s growth and stressed the need to extend support to ‘Nari Shakti’.

“A distortion has crept in our conduct and we at times insult women,” he said, and asked, “Can we take a pledge to get rid of this from our behaviour and values?”

He asserted that “we should do nothing that lowers the dignity of women” in speech and in our conduct.

wrestlerMonths later as he presided over the grand opening of the newly constructed “temple of democracy”, the country’s leading female wrestlers who had bought glory for the country at Olympics and other world standard games, were being pinned to the ground by a huge police force.

The police personnel dragged them to waiting buses and arrested them for staging a protest outside the new Parliament building.

Also Read: Was it the ‘Commemoration of Civilizational Renaissance’ or the Inauguration of the new building of India’s Parliament?

Neither the prime minister nor any of his ministers have spoken a word on the issues raised by the leading wrestlers like Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh

They had been protesting for over a month demanding action against the Indian Wrestling Federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual harassment of female wrestlers.

One of the complainant, who has given a statement before the court, is a minor and it is mandatory for the police to arrest the accused on the basis of her statement under POSCO.

Yet nothing has moved the government and the police, taking a cue from powers that be, has failed to even call the accused for questioning much less arrest him.

In similar cases the police would have straightaway arrested the accused and sought for his extended stay behind the bars.

But Brij Bhushan appears to be crucial for BJP’s performance in half a dozen Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh. In the high stake elections due next year, outcome from the constituencies under his influence might be crucial.

That pretty much explains the deafening silence of the rulers on the extended protest by the country’s top wrestlers.

Evidently the choice before the ruling dispensation is to either earn the ire of a vote catcher like Brij Bhushan or to ignore the petition by the wrestlers.

Evidently it has decided that it is better to lose credibility among the sports lovers rather than lose votes.

Incidentally the accused BJP MP has blamed some senior Haryana politicians, who are keen to wrest control of the WFI, for orchestrating the protests by the wrestlers SP as to dethrone him from his post.

It is hard to digest that the female wrestlers would have put their prestige and reputation at stake just to become part of an alleged conspiracy.

The prolonged protest and their humiliation outside the new parliament building has forced the wrestlers to immerse their hard earned medals in the holy Ganges.

Also Read: Wrestling With Impunity

This was supposed to wake up the government from its slumber and hit it where it could feel the pinch. However they have deferred their plans following intervention by Khap Panchayats who have sought a period of five days to draw out a strategy.

The indifferent attitude of the government has drawn criticism from various sections of the society.

Now even international sports organisations like the International Olympic Committee and the United World Wrestling Council of which Wrestling Federation is a part, have taken stand in the support of protesting wrestlers.

While the government appears happy to put its critics and even comedians behind the bars at the slightest of pretext and without any evidence, it has not allowed its agencies to do even something as summoning the accused for questioning and putting him through a sustained interrogation.

It must act now lest we become a laughing stock across the globe. punjab


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Vipin Pubby

Vipin Pubby

The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.

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