Skip to main content

How women wrestlers’ movement has become wider symbol for justice, dignity, safety

By Bharat Dogra 

Vinesh Phogat is a prominent woman wrestler who has been the proud winner of gold medals for India in Asian and Commonwealth Games. In more recent times, however she has spent most of her time struggling to get justice for seven women wrestlers, including a minor, who have complained of sexual harassment by a very senior official of the Wrestling Federation of India.
In a review of her experiences in the course of this struggle, very recently she wrote in The Indian Express (May 24, 2023) that they are not satisfied with the official response to their struggle so far and that their struggle will continue till they get justice. An oversight committee was formed by the Sports Ministry to probe the allegations but, Phogat has written, “we know now that it was an eyewash…There is no justice in sight.”
In addition she has stated, “Like many other girls I had to suffer silently all these years because of this man (the main accused in this case) and I had no option.” Regarding this struggle, in which she has been joined by other medal-winning wrestlers, she has stated, “What is the use of medals around your neck if you can’t fight for justice.” She has stated that we are fighting for justice so that other women sportspersons do not have to endure such harassment and can compete in a safe environment.
Vineet Phogat, Sakshi Malik and other women wrestlers who are leading this struggle represent a group of high achieving women from rural and traditional sections of society who have won very high appreciation and acclaim among traditional as well as modern sections of society, helping to open the doors of new, non-traditional avenues for women, in sports and elsewhere. They have also been joined by some equally high achieving male colleagues like Bajrang Punia. If even they cannot get justice after such a prolonged struggle, and instead of giving their best to prepare for their upcoming international events have to spend their time on the footpath in protests, then this will send a very wrong message regarding the progress paths open for women.
Women and girls in India have responded very well to whatever limited openings that became more available for them in the more tradition-bound sections of society. Girl students have been consistently performing better than boys in schools in many areas. Even at a higher level there is the welcome news that the highest share of women candidates has just been recorded in the recent selection by the UPSC for civil services. All the top four ranks here have been claimed by women.
What is more, even from the more tradition-bound villages, there have been many remarkable success stories of women, including those who have been elected as pradhans or head-persons of their villages under India’s system of rural decentralization called panchayati raj.
It is in this wider context that the struggle of women wrestlers should be seen. It is significant that they have been receiving widespread support from not just the farmers’ movement but even from those village-level organizations generally regarded as social conservatives in matters concerning gender equality and rights of women. Hence this struggle has acquired a larger dimension in the context of the aspirations of women and girls from rural and traditional areas. The fact that even the most successful among them are being denied justice for such a long time (this struggle started in January 2023) and that there is a possibility of the leaders of the struggle being victimized has hurt the feelings of all those in similar aspirational positions. In contrast, the more elitist and richest sportspersons, such as cricketers, have at best provided only very limited support to this struggle.
This struggle is no longer the struggle of just a few wrestlers but has become an identity mark for all those women and girls from traditional sections of society who want environs of safety, dignity and justice as they enter new avenues to improve their socio-economic conditions. They are asking—if even a struggle led by the superstars among us—international gold medal winners—does not get justice, how can our safety and dignity be assured? Hence justice for this struggle has become increasingly important for the justice, safety and dignity of a large number of women and girls.
---
The writer has been contributing consistently on issues of social relevance

Comments

TRENDING

'Modi govt's assault on dissent': Foreign funds of top finance NGO blocked

By Rajiv Shah  In a surprise move, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has cancelled the foreign funding license of the well-known advocacy group, Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), known for critically examining India's finance and banking sectors from human rights and environmental angle.

Misleading ads 'manipulate, seduce, lure' to market unhealthy harmful food

By Our Representative  The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) in its new report “50 Shades of Food Advertising” has sought to expose how seductive, luring, manipulative or deceptive these advertisements can be. Consequences of such advertising are increased intake of unhealthy food products that is associated with obesity and diabetes, it says. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-related deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

August 9 to be observed as Corporates Quit India day: Top farmers' group

By Our Representative A recent general body meeting of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the top farmers' organisation, stated hat "there is no need for any illusion of change in the pro-corporate policies of the BJP-NDA government" following the recent elections in which BJP failed to achieve even simple majority. It insisted,  Prime Minister Narendra Modi "is hell bent" to continue 'business as usual' policies.

Over 3.8 billion animals at risk: India on crossroad in animal welfare practices

By Rupali Soni*  In a collaborative effort, the India Animal Fund and Dasra have unveiled their report , "Our Shared Future | Securing Animal Welfare, Human Wellbeing, and Sustainability in India." This landscape report provides a thorough overview of animal welfare and underscores its indispensable role within India's socio-economic and ecological frameworks. It also illustrates how animal welfare is intricately intertwined with public health, labor welfare, and climate resilience.

Belgian report alleges MNC Etex responsible for asbestos pollution in Madhya Pradesh town Kymore: COP's Geneva meet

By Our Representative A comprehensive Belgian report has held MNC Etex , into construction business and one of the richest, responsible for asbestos pollution in Kymore, an industrial town in in Katni district of Madhya Pradesh. The report provides evidence from the ground on how Kymore’s dust even today is “annoying… it creeps into your clothes, you have to cough it”, saying “It can be deadly.”

'Genocidal violence in Bastar': Civil society groups ask UNHRC to intervene

By Our Representative  The civil rights network Forum Against Corporatisation and Militarisation (FACAM), along with the Foundation The London Story, Netherlands, International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India, India Justice Project, Germany and London Mining Network, UK, in a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has complained of "genocidal violence" allegedly being unleashed on the Adivasi peasants in Bastar. Stating that the violence has intensified in 2024 since the Indian state launched the draconian Surajkund Scheme, the representation said, as of now, close to 200 individuals have been killed in Bastar. Along with this, multiple human rights defenders, ground activists and peasant leaders such as Surju Tekam, and Suneeta Pottem, have been arrested in Chhattisgarh based on falsified charges of being associated with the proscribed Communist Party of India (Maoist) under anti-terror and sedition law, it added. Seeking periodic review of th