Wrestling women’s protest: Break the impasse

Wrestling women’s protest: Break the impasse

The protesting wrestlers have accused the Wrestling Federation of India chief and Bharatiya Janata Party MP, Brij Bhushan Singh, of sexual harassment and molestation, a charge he vehemently denies.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Wednesday, May 24, 2023, 11:46 PM IST
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Wrestling women’s protest: Break the impasse | File pic

The protest sit-in by the country’s top women wrestlers at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, has completed a month but there seems to be no solution in sight. Both sides seem adamant. The protesting wrestlers have accused the Wrestling Federation of India chief and Bharatiya Janata Party MP, Brij Bhushan Singh, of sexual harassment and molestation, a charge he vehemently denies.

Since the incidents in question allegedly happened months ago and there is no material witness to buttress the charges, it eventually boils down to a 'your-word-against-my-word' kind of a situation. Under the circumstances, neither the Delhi Police, with which a formal complaint was lodged by the alleged victims of Singh’s sexual advances, nor the judicial authorities can definitely approve or disapprove the charges. Singh has all along protested his innocence, claiming that a Haryana lobby that wanted to seize control of the federation, and which he had defeated in the last election, was instigating the women protesters. No doubt, some of the protesting wrestlers have done the country proud, winning medals in various international competitions, and their contribution were duly recognized by the nation. It is indeed a matter of regret that they should feel obliged to seek redress of their grievance through a public protest.

Unfortunately, with Singh, a powerful MP with influence in large parts Uttar Pradesh, digging in his heels, ruling out any compromise, saying he has done no wrong, and the protesting women unwilling to accept anything short of his resignation from the headship of the wrestling body, the stalemate persists. How it can be ended without blemishing the reputation of Singh, unless the charge of sexual molestation is proven by an independent and impartial probe, or deepening the sense of victimhood of the protesters has defied the best minds in the government and the Delhi Police. Even the higher judiciary when approached could not pave the way for an amicable solution. For, how do you prove charges of sexual molestation against a person in authority months after the alleged incident took place and in the absence of any audio or video evidence.

What has queered the pitch for the protesting women wrestlers is the gratuitous attempt by opposition politicians to jump in the fray. This, in turn, has given the protest a political colour. As Singh is a powerful BJP MP and had defeated a senior Congress politician from Haryana in the contest for the control of the Wrestling Federation, he would not want to allow the latter to exploit the protest to snatch control of the federation. In other words, intrusion of partisan politics in sports administration has made it harder for the wrestlers to get a fair hearing. Apparently, even the highest in the government have struggled in vain to find an amicable end to the stand-off between the women wrestlers and the federation chief. Maybe men of goodwill who are unstained by partisan politics will intervene and bring about an honourable rapprochement that is both fair to the women protesters and also avoids staining the image of Singh the politician in the complete absence of any tangible evidence. It is a hard task but somehow the impasse must be broken.

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