Mumbai: A panel of women representing political parties and NGOs in a press conference on Thursday demanded the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, BJP MP and president of Wrestling Federation of India. Singh has been accused of sexual harassment by wrestlers who have been protesting for over a month and even threatened to immerse their medals in Ganga at Haridwar. The panel members threatened to intensify their protests over a period of time if Singh was not arrested.
The press conference was attended by Maharashtra NCP Women's Cell president Vidya Chavan, Mumbai Aam Aadmi Party president Preeti Sharma Menon, Dr Kamaxi Bhate of Forum Against Oppression Of Women, Mulabhoot Adhikar and Sangharsha Samiti secretary Chitra Rane, and former secretary of government of Maharashtra Ainul Attar. The press conference was organised by Jamaat-e-Islami Mumbai Ladies Wing.
Rane mentions Bilkis Bano case
"Society's character reflects in the way they treat their women. We have seen the case of Bilkis Bano. She was raped, her child and relatives killed. Those who raped were given ladoo and called Sanskari. Is this the way to treat women? The committee that was to look into allegations should have had 50 per cent women but had only one woman and rest men. Even the sole person in the panel registered her protest," said Rane.
Chavan slams BJP
Other panel speakers echoed her views and said that police arrest people on suspicion but it was surprising that in the case of Singh, no arrests were made despite protests. "Like one of the speakers said, there are so many people lying in jails on mere suspicion. A number of Muslim youth are picked up on suspicion but here there are two FIRs and still no action. Since when have we relied on criminals saying they have not committed crime? Earlier also we have seen cases like Kathua and Hathras where BJP somewhere seems to be involved," asked Chavan.
BJP, RSS are Mahila Virodhi Sangh: Menon
Speakers said that Union Minister Smirit Irani's statements that Babita Phogat, family member of those protesting, would not have sat with harassers was an attempt to confuse people. "It is a straightforward case where she is trying to confuse people. Of the two FIRs, one is under POCSO (charges). How can a person not be arrested? He is instead roaming around invited for the dedication of the new Parliament building. Wrestlers on the other hand were pulled, beaten and arrested on the same day. What is the mentality of BJP and RSS? They are Mahila Virodhi Sangh. They have not even allowed people to meet them including Delhi Women's Commission head," said Menon.
Speakers said there were specific laws like the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act that was not being implemented. "They say, 'were you sleeping for 12 years to levy the charges now?' Athletes get up early in the morning and practice all day, then they have school and other places to attend to. There was no internal committee because the accused was heading the body," said Bhate.
Attar said that it was surprising that no action was taken and all should condemn the act. "We have seen Shivaji Maharaj respect women. Similarly women should be respected," said Attar.