As any seasoned observer can attest, the pursuit of justice is a formidable challenge. For justice, by its very nature, is a complex and elusive concept that demands unwavering commitment and perseverance. In a bold move, India's finest wrestlers have taken up the fight for justice against the formidable Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, President of the Wrestling Federation of India. The phrase “justice shall prevail” is undoubtedly familiar to all. The wrestlers’ battle serves as a poignant reflection of the workings of justice in India.
The deafening silence of the central government and the ruling party in the face of allegations of sexual harassment and assault by wrestlers against Singh has left the public’s conscience shaken. When even the most accomplished wrestlers, who have earned medals in prestigious global competitions and proudly represented their nation, encounter numerous obstacles in their pursuit of justice, one can only imagine the state of justice at the grassroots level.
In the aftermath of an election, the public often gauges the mettle and resolve of the newly-formed government by scrutinising its seat count. When a government holds an absolute majority, it is widely regarded as a stable entity. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government has secured two consecutive election victories with a resounding majority. The BJP’s core tenets are rooted in Hindutva ideology, as espoused by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. At the heart of the party's ethos lies a resolute determination to act with conviction and purpose. The ideological path followed by the central government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party has undoubtedly been successful. However, there exist several criticisms and disagreements regarding this brand of politics.
The recent protest by wrestlers serves as a stark reminder of the regime’s growing vulnerability. It appears that the government is becoming increasingly rattled and fearful of losing political, social, and electoral ground. It is indisputable that prior to the exposure of Singh’s sexual assault allegations, this individual was relatively unknown beyond the borders of Uttar Pradesh. It is truly remarkable that Singh’s immense power has resulted in the police, officials, political party, and indeed the Union government itself being in a state of denial — something that few could have foreseen.
When the case of Asaram Bapu came to light, such massive-scale denial was not there. Though there was lots of pressure, the police had the courage to act independently. Amidst the controversy surrounding Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the wrestlers were left with no choice but to seek legal intervention from the Supreme Court. The denial of their requests had reached an unprecedented level, prompting the need for an order mandating the police register FIRs against the President of the Wrestling Federation of India.
The BJP must grasp the gravity of the situation at hand. Despite any inclination to resist the accusations made by the wrestlers, the fallout from this event is significantly damaging the party’s political standing. Over the course of the last nine years, the Modi administration has exhibited a resolute stance toward pursuing legal action against political adversaries via central agencies. Despite having interacted with the wrestlers for more than a month, Home Minister Amit Shah, known for his media savvy, has yet to release a statement or post a tweet on the matter. The proponents of the Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao movements appear to be evading inquiries on the subject at hand.
The accounts detailed in the FIRs filed under various acts, notably POCSO, are undeniably spine-tingling. The women courageously shared harrowing tales of harassment allegedly perpetrated by Singh. The vivid descriptions of the events are likely to evoke strong emotional responses from readers. The stark reality of the situation is that these wrestlers have endured truly harrowing and distressing experiences.
It is heartening to witness the display of solidarity by several BJP leaders, distinguished cricketers including Kapil Dev and the 1983 Cricket World Cup squad, and various other individuals who have exhibited remarkable fortitude in supporting these athletes. Despite the gravity of the situation, a conspicuous silence pervades the cricket community, the film fraternity, and other notable spheres. Amidst the ongoing political turmoil, the film industry's notable personalities, who are often seen actively engaging with the Union government through social media and public statements, have chosen to remain tight-lipped. It is worth noting that the public is keenly observing any instances of hypocrisy and will not forgive such displays of double standards.
Power never lasts forever. No matter how strong or influential one may seem, their reign will eventually come to a close. It is a humbling reminder that nothing in this world is permanent, and that change is an inevitable part of life. So, whether you are at the height of your power or just starting out, it is important to remember that your time in the spotlight will eventually come to an end. The key is to use your power wisely and make a positive impact while you can. The wrestlers' mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement, neglect by the authorities, and incessant harassment will undoubtedly be etched in our collective memory. The current situation is indeed regrettable as the state appears to be employing various tactics to suppress the voice of the woman and subject her to systemic pressure. This is particularly concerning given that the individual in question, Singh, holds significant political power as an MP from Uttar Pradesh.
As citizens, it is our duty to rally behind these wrestlers in their fight. For if we fail to do so, we risk a future where there is no one left to stand up against the powerful. Singh, a man of power, has been accused of soliciting sexual favours and subjecting women and girls to harassment. His alleged actions are said to stem from a sense of impunity, as he is believed to enjoy the backing of the government. It is imperative to remind those in power that the will of the people reigns supreme over any political regime. The delivery of justice is paramount, for without it, citizens may lose faith in the state, judiciary, and political parties. At the heart of this conflict lies the fundamental principles of justice and democracy, enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The issue at hand is one of upholding these values, which are promised to every citizen of the nation.
The writer is a doctoral research scholar in media and politics. He tweets @sayantan_gh. Views expressed in this article are personal