Skip to main content

Sanskari sexual offender 'beyond reprimand'. Will wrestlers’ struggle for justice endure?

By Prem Singh*
 
Published as front page story in a prominent daily, Vinesh Phogat in her write up 'Like many girls, I had to suffer silently all these years because of this man (Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh)' has made a remarkable statement. She states:
“Now there is no fear. The only fear we have is that we may have to quit wrestling. We believe we have five years more in the sport but who knows what the future holds for us after these protests. We also know our lives could be at risk because we have taken on not only Brij Bhushan but other powerful forces, too, but I don’t fear death.”
On the path of struggle for justice, women wrestlers finally overcome instincts of fear and greed. In this sense, there is a need to seriously consider their struggle.
In the write up, Phogat states that they approached various government/administrative bodies -- Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Sports Ministry, Indian Olympic Association (IOA), Sports Authority of India (SAI), Oversight Committee, Delhi Police etc. -- against the charges of longstanding sexual harassment by WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. But no one took proper action by taking their complaint seriously.
In order to get justice, they were forced to enter the social domain and decide to begin a direct struggle. Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and many other wrestlers who were victims of sexual harassment showed solidarity with the decision. The Supreme Court ordered the Delhi Police to register an FIR. It is clear from the write up that the wrestlers had to go through a long drawn self-struggle before arriving at the decision of a direct struggle.
In today's authoritarian/ fundamentalist political-social environment, winning over fear and greed would be considered a great achievement. Right from the beginning, the ruling establishment and its troll army have been trying to break the morale of women wrestlers in various ways.
The attitude of the Delhi Police has been oppressive towards them. Perhaps it is the result of the strength born from their long self-struggle that they have all ultimately triumphed over fear and greed. They have even overcome the fear of their life. There is also the 'greed' of career – which every sports person earns through hard work and dedication. As mentioned in the write up, Phogat has given up on her future career. Obviously, the other struggling wrestlers too have done this.
It may be noted that the twin instincts of fear and greed were deeply entrenched in the Indian psyche during colonial rule. Due to this specific phenomenon, the country remained in a state of colonial subordination for about three centuries.
India's freedom struggle was also a struggle to establish a fearlessness and abstinence/contentment in the Indian mind by cutting the very instincts of fear and greed. Gandhi tried with utmost devotion to infuse this goal into the spirit of the freedom struggle. However, most of the leaders/intellectuals who followed his leadership had allegiance either half-way with Gandhi's effort, or not at all.
With the attainment of Independence, we physically and ideologically murdered Gandhi, the one who dared to teach the lesson of fearlessness and abstinence. Only four decades after independence, the doors of the country were thrown open to welcome neo-imperialism. The twin instincts of fear and greed have pervaded the Indian psyche more rapidly and deeply than perhaps even during the colonial period.
The present version of RSS/BJP, which is operating with the sole intention of capturing power and maintaining it for a long time, is playing a leading role in instilling fear of the power in peoples’ minds and making them utterly obsessed with greed. But the non-BJP ruling elite also play the same role in their power domains. For a just system, it is necessary to cut the noose of this fear and greed. If even a couple of citizens do this, then it should be welcomed. The women wrestlers have done this.
The attitude of the institutions and individuals who have been assigned the duty of delivering justice so far do not inspire confidence that Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh will be put on trial or arrested. However, for damage control, at the most he may be asked to resign from the post of WFI president.
The recent complaint of some BJP leaders to their own government for allowing the case to go on for a long time is not because of their concern for the cause i.e. justice for the wrestlers, but due to their worry of political profit and loss. In fact, the government has given Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh a long time so that he could influence the evidence and witnesses in his favor.
The minor complainant has already withdrawn her allegations against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh that absolve him from POCSO. She has recorded a fresh statement. The reporting of the meeting held on June 7 between the Sports Minister and representatives of the wrestlers does not even mention the main demand of the wrestlers -- the immediate arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. As a result of this meeting the representatives of the wrestlers have agreed to postpone the struggle till June 15. Supporters have high hope that the struggle will not happen in compromise.
Meeting between Sports Minister and wrestlers does not even mention main demand -- immediate arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh
Any way, let us come to the point. When ‘good’ people sitting in the justice delivering institutions advise wrestlers that Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is like their father; that he might have touched them with a paternal attitude, the clear message is that the 'sanskari sexual tormentor' is beyond complaint and punishment!
Otherwise, these people know very well that if Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was the master of 'father-like' personality, he would have resigned from the post of president as soon as the allegations were leveled against him by the seven women wrestlers, including a minor.
It can be said that wrestlers should not be discouraged or disheartened in their struggle for justice against sexual harassment. They should not act in haste while continuing their struggle. They are not powerless on their path of struggle for justice. The power they have acquired -- conquering fear and greed - has catapulted them into a greater role.
They, in fact, should strengthen this moral position. Going by the details of the FIRs registered by the Delhi Police on the orders of the Supreme Court, it appears that more women may have suffered sexual harassment at the hands of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, both inside and outside the wrestling association. Such women, who remained silent for some reasons, by watching this direct struggle of seven women wrestlers, may have nursed the hope of getting justice.
The sports fraternity, to which the struggling wrestlers first appealed for their support, might have questioned the coward sitting inside them to some extent, despite their silence. The citizens who came out in their support at Jantar Mantar might have gone back with some lessons in fearlessness and not falling prey to greed at the cost of self-respect.
Citizens, especially women, who are watching this struggle from their homes or workplaces, may have gained some courage. This is no less of a big victory for the wrestlers for achieving the meaning of life. They don't need to shed their medals in the Ganges or go on fast unto death in despair, but they need to set further goals.
It will be necessary for them to make their own decisions as before, while giving due respect to their supporters and advisors. Their supporters and advisors should also understand this. Especially those who want to be successful and to stay ahead by pushing the wrestlers back. Since the political discourse has reached a bottom low in the country, it is obvious to accuse the wrestlers of political self interest as the motive behind their resistance.
The usual job of character assassination of players, throwing mud on them, imprisoning their struggle in casteist or regional colours will also continue till the decision is taken. Some established players, former and current, will continue to preach that sports and politics should not be mixed. 
The wrestlers should continue their struggle with the identity of a citizen and respected sportsperson of the country without getting involved in all this. For that the address of Jantar Mantar is not mandatory. All strength and courage to them.
---
*Associated with the socialist movement, former teacher of Delhi University and former fellow of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla

Comments

TRENDING

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Women innovators on simple, revolutionary alternate solutions for water problems

By Proshakha Maitra, Mansee Bal Bhargava* The detrimental effects of uncontrolled population rise and accelerated change in the global climate have posed tremendous pressure on the water and sanitation. This calls all stakeholders, from both developed and developing nations, to improve their resilience and to instigate sustainability. It is more crucial than ever to optimise the use of the resources we have on hand since the world population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Alleged killing of another Bangladesh youth inside Indian territory: NHRC inquiry sought

By Kirity Roy* There was yet another incident of the killing of a Bangladeshi youth by the Border Security Force personnel attached with ‘Barthar’ BOP of ‘G’ Company of 75 BSF Battalion. In last five years several incidents of killings happened under this police station’s jurisdiction and the cases will get the award as “Not Guilty” as usual.

Modi model, Hindutva icon 'justified' alliance with Muslim League before Independence

By Shamsul Islam*  Our PM describes himself as ‘Hindu’ nationalist and member of RSS. He proudly shares the fact that he was groomed to be a political leader by one of the two fathers of the Hindutva politics, MS Golwalkar (the other being VD Savarkar) and given the task of establishing Hindutva polity in India after eradicating secularism.

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. 

Crusader for people’s causes, this Hollywood actor entered 'unexplored zones' in US

By Harsh Thakor*  Marlon Brando on April 3rd completes his birth centenary. He perished in 2004, on July 1, aged 80 years. Arguably in Hollywood Brando penetrated sensitivity and versatility at an unparalleled scale and discovered new horizons or explored path breaking zones in acting.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Insider plot to kill Deendayal Upadhyay? What RSS pracharak Balraj Madhok said

By Shamsul Islam*  Balraj Madhok's died on May 2, 2016 ending an era of old guards of Hindutva politics. A senior RSS pracharak till his death was paid handsome tributes by the RSS leaders including PM Modi, himself a senior pracharak, for being a "stalwart leader of Jan Sangh. Balraj Madhok ji's ideological commitment was strong and clarity of thought immense. He was selflessly devoted to the nation and society. I had the good fortune of interacting with Balraj Madhok ji on many occasions". The RSS also issued a formal condolence message signed by the Supremo Mohan Bhagwat on behalf of all swayamsevaks, referring to his contribution of commitment to nation and society. He was a leading RSS pracharak on whom his organization relied for initiating prominent Hindutva projects. But today nobody in the RSS-BJP top hierarchy remembers/talks about Madhok as he was an insider chronicler of the immense degeneration which was spreading as an epidemic in the high echelons of th

India 'neglecting' air, water, vegetation as its world air quality index ranking decelerates

By Dr Gurinder Kaur* The World Air Quality Report 2023 , prepared by a Swiss technology company IQAir, was released on 19 March 2024. According to this report, India is the third most polluted country in the world after Bangladesh and Pakistan, and the capital of India, New Delhi, is the most polluted capital in the world.