The protesting wrestlers must succeed — here's why
That the #MeTooWrestlingIndia athletes are willing to sacrifice the prime of their sporting lives for a cause greater than them should weigh heavily on all of us.
Grisly and disturbing details of the exact nature of sexual harassment allegations against former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh have finally come to light.
Contents of FIRs have been published in the media, and what emerges is a pattern of unchecked abuse of power, ‘alleged’ of course.
There are supposedly two sides to this story. The allegations of the wrestlers are clear cut – Brij Bhushan needs to be arrested.
The counter claim from Bhushan’s camp is that it is no coincidence that all these protesting wrestlers happen to hail from the same akhada in Haryana, believed to be under the patronage of Congress leader Deepender Hooda.
Bhushan, a sitting rival BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, has said that the ongoing demonstration against him is nothing more than a political attack, and that he is innocent.
After much cajoling and prodding, which led all the way to the Supreme Court, the Delhi Police finally registered two FIRs against Bhushan. The charges are serious – including one under India’s sexual harassment law protecting minors.
The POCSO offence carries with it the expectation for an accused to be immediately arrested.
However Bhushan remains free, even attending the inauguration ceremony of the new Parliament building. This triggered the latest round of protests, with the wrestlers being evicted from the Jantar Mantar protest site, and pushed to the brink of immersing their hard won medals in the Ganga.
Meanwhile, Bhushan is unfazed – even issuing seemingly contradictory comments that “medals are worth 15 rupees”, followed by “medals belong to the country” and that hence the wrestlers have no right to throw them away.
As precious metals go, in international sporting glory-starved India, the wrestlers’ Olympic and World Championship medals are priceless, to say the least.
Thankfully, following the intervention of Khap panchayat and farmer union leaders, the wrestlers have been convinced to hold off. For now. But imminent re-escalation awaits, if Bhushan isn’t sent behind bars.
It is at this juncture that the #MeTooWrestlingIndia matter now stands. Whatever be your political hue, one thing is clear – the protesting wrestlers have forced the attention of mainstream media, and as a corollary, the general Indian public at large, towards the continued plight of non-cricket sports in India.
The fact that they managed to do this during an IPL season – an event where the entire nation finds a collective excuse to bury their heads in the sand for a period of two months each year – is remarkable to say the least.
Tellingly, those in positions of ‘relevant’ power – be it the Indian Olympic Association President or the Union Sports Minister – have all made statements advising the wrestlers to not sully the country’s image.
Even more tellingly, neither of them, nor many others for that matter, are issuing similar such warnings to the accused Brij Bhushan himself.
Needless to say, like the ancient Ganga, the law too will take its own course, meandering its way from the trial court, to the high court, to the Supreme Court, and back again, as procedural and substantive points of law are argued threadbare.
Do the wrestlers have what it takes to continue fighting it out?
Every month that these wrestlers are forced away from their practice mats, is an equivalent of two years of their short professional athletic careers. That they are willing to sacrifice the prime of their sporting lives for a cause greater than them, should weigh heavily on all of us.
Their actions are proof of their champion jigar. Their medals have now been reinforced by mettle.
The wrestlers must succeed in their fight for justice. For in their victory, will they inspire countless other unnamed and unknown state, national and international level sportspersons, especially from non-cricketing sports, to wage similar battles, on-field and off it, against well-entrenched interests.