Ten years back, capital city had been witness to an unprecedented people’s protest against brutal gangrape and murder of Nirbhaya, that continued for days braving all coercive measures of the then Congress government to break the movement. At that time, our Party while being at the forefront of the struggle, had categorically stated that the capitalist system of the country is robbing students, youth and common people of humanity and values as a result of which a section of them are falling victims to increasing crimes; on the other hand, without taking strictest measures against these crimes, the bourgeois governments are really indulging these crimes and criminals. History is repeated and repeated with more disgrace laying bare how the ruling party satraps are involved in outraging modesty of the girls. Internationally acclaimed, award-winning, Olympic, Commonwealth games and Asian games medal-holding even Padmashree awardee women wrestlers along with their compatriot male counterparts are not on their wrestling mat, but in the arena of public protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. They are demanding stringent action against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Wrestling Federation of India President and six-time BJP MP, for alleged sexual harassment on them for months. One of the victims is a minor. Right from the ‘Dharna Manch’ a tearful Vinesh Phogat narrated the ordeal of not less than 10-12 girls under training at the National camp, that have related the sort of bitter experiences they have gone through. For these girls hailing from lower middle class families, wrestling is the only means of sustaining themselves. With grim apprehension that if they exposed the authorities making the sexual harassment public, they might be suspended, not allowed to contest or charged of doping with something secretly put in their meals. So, these sports women despite spending sleepless nights had hitherto maintained silence. When the assault crossed all the limits, overcoming their fear of being victimized still more, they have opted for narrating their harrowing experiences in front of the people of the country. Now they are mulling returning their medals in protest.
For the last four months, they have been pleading for justice, which continues to elude them. Because the BJP government and more so PM Modi, who telephones the athletes when they bring glory to the country on international platforms, felicitate them in tea parties and fiddles with the catchphrase of ‘‘Beti Podao, Berti Bachao’’ even during electioneering, are visibly standing with the offender and thus become indulgent onlookers to outraging of modesty to our sisters and daughters. Initially, the police was not even ready to register the FIR against the accused. It was only after the Supreme Court reprimanded the Delhi Police and directed them to lodge an FIR against the alleged culprit that a case was registered under the POCSO Act (sexual abuse of a minor). Under the Indian legal system, it is a rule that the accused who is charged with the POCSO Act is immediately arrested. But arrest here is far away. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is not even ready to resign from the post of President of Wrestling Federation of India and is roaming around with flower garlands. If women sportspersons of international fame are subjected to such bestial assaults by pervert officials, how horrendous is the condition of common women of the country?
By the by, who is this ‘great’ Brij Bhushan Singh? Not just three times WFI President and six times BJP MP, his name is intricately linked with the case of Babri Masjid demolition. He was driver of the car that was highlighted as a chariot of veteran BJP leader L K Advani during his Ram Janambhumi ‘rathayatra’. He was allegedly in Ayodhya and provoked the VHP kar sevaks to demolish the Babri masjid. He has also been accused of sheltering some “kar sevaks” during the movement and facilitating their journey to Ayodhya. As many as 40 FIRs have been lodged against him till March 2023.There had been a case against him by TADA on the allegation of providing shelter to associates of Daud Ibrahim and he had to serve terms too. So, despite his name coming up for robbery and rioting, having underworld connections and having openly confessed over media of murdering a person called Ravindra Singh, he can safely get away with the laws of the land and rewarded with coveted posts. Because he is a “Ram Bhakt”, he is licensed to do any nonsense and crime with impunity.
Pertinent to mention that a few years back Olympian bronze medalist Karnam Maleswari had remarked that In India female sports persons were sexually harassed not only by the coaches but even by the officials of the Federation. Promising boxer S. Amarvati had consumed poison and committed suicide, on account of harassment in the hands of the coach. Innumerable though are such cases of sexual abuse, mostly they are not brought to the fore for different reasons. Yet, between 2010 and 2020, not less than 43 cases of sexual harassment had been submitted to SAI, out of which 29 complaints were lodged against the coaches. On most occasions, no drastic steps were taken. Investigation goes on over the years, yet punishment is not meted out to any of the perpetrators. In 1990, Ruchika Girhotra, a Tennis player, had complained of molestation by S P Rathore, the then President of the Indian Tennis Federation and IG, Haryana Police whom the government rewarded with a promotion to the post of the DG even after that. Ruchika in her turn was so driven to the tethers under extreme mental stress that she committed suicide.
Along with nearly 200 first ranking men and women wrestlers and lakhs of right-thinking countrymen, activists of AIDSO, AIDYO and AIMSS lent full support to the just movement. They visited the ‘Dharna Manch’ and expressed solidarity with the wrestlers on protest. Throughout the country, clubs, institutions, eminent citizens and sports personalities have joined protest rallies, meetings etc., organized by AIDSO, AIDYO and AIMSS. All India Scheme Workers have also come forward. All of them are unanimously demanding justice for the players and punishment for the culprits. To break the movement, Delhi police under union home minister had disrupted the necessary supplies of water and electricity that were being provided to the wrestlers. When they tried to bring a few cots in after the beddings got wet in the rain, the police threw their cots away. Few wrestlers got injured in this tussle. Female wrestlers were manhandled by male police personnel, and some were dragged out of the protest place. Not only this, when in support of the protestors, AIDSO Delhi along with other left and progressive students’ organizations, took out a protest in Delhi University, they were detained and brutally beaten up by the police. AIDSO in a statement dated 04-05-23, which it observed as solidarity day, strongly condemned the brutal attack by Delhi Police on the struggling wrestlers at Jantar Mantar as well as on the students solidarity rally in Delhi University. AIDSO, AIDYO and AIMSS have demanded immediate dismissal of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh from WFI Presidentship, his expulsion from the federation, meting out exemplary punishment to him and ensure maintenance of honour and dignity of women.