Wrestlers’ protest: We as a nation have lost sense of what is right and moral

We also witnessed the shameful visuals of the women being dragged around by the police while they were protesting against the authorities’ inertia.
Wrestlers’ protest: We as a nation have lost sense of what is right and moral

The Nirbhaya case of 2012 shook the nation’s conscience. She was not the first woman to be raped, and unfortunately, nor would she be last, but the sheer brutality of the crime in the national capital decided the political fate of the then Delhi government and was a huge influence in making UPA II unpopular. Another such event is now unfolding in Delhi, but with a different outcome. It seems that between the Nirbhaya case and today, we as a nation have lost our conscience somewhere. 

The allegations of sexual harassment by India’s seven top women wrestlers, including one minor, against Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, a six-time MP and the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), are of serious nature. The wrestlers allege that the police had initially refused even to register an FIR. After four months of struggle, they had to approach the Supreme Court with a plea to get the FIR filed. If such an allegation had come against a common man, he would have been already arrested under the POCSO Act. 

We also witnessed the shameful visuals of the women being dragged around by the police while they were protesting against the authorities’ inertia. The ruling party has tried to build a ring of defence with the much-abused excuse, ‘law will take its own course’. While the argument may suffice for television studio shouting matches or for the blindly devoted supporters in their WhatsApp and other social media debates, it doesn’t cut ice when it comes to political correctness, integrity and propriety.

We may have left that era when politicians had some moral compass and used to resign until allegations were proven false. Just two decades ago, veteran BJP leader LK Advani resigned from the Lok Sabha when his name was mentioned in a private diary of an individual accused in Hawala dealing. Advani returned to active politics only after his name was cleared. After a train accident in 1956 in Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu, which killed 144 people, Railway Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned, taking moral responsibility. Maybe it is an indication of our times that we can neither expect morality nor responsibility from today’s politicians. Most might not have even heard the word shame. 

The world is noticing how the protesting women, some world champions and Olympic medal winners, are being treated by the authorities. India’s image as an ancient civilisation and a modern nation has taken a brutal beating. The United World Wrestling too condemned the recent detention of the wrestlers by the Delhi Police and threatened to suspend the WFI if it did not provide information about the proposed next elective general assembly. If the suspension occurs, Indian wrestlers must play under 
a neutral flag in global events. This is the fate of our women sports heroes who brought glory and Olympic laurels to the medal-starved country of 140 crore people. 

It is baffling why a political party that prides itself on having its ears to the ground is missing the erosion of its goodwill by blindly and vociferously supporting the man facing the allegation. Why a politician is president of a sports body is an age-old question that we, the citizens, will never get an answer for, and there is no point in raising that. When the heroes of the 1983 Cricket World Cup, however, are calling for action against a politician-turned-sports administrator, it is a gauge of how the mood of the public is slowly changing. Perhaps, the ruling party thinks it will be able to ride this protest wave without many issues, thanks to the pathetic leadership of the main opposition party, which is busy raising bizarre allegations from foreign soil while ignoring burning issues on the ground that could corner the government. Most probably, the voice of these protesters would fade away as a cry in the wilderness as we, the people, have stopped thinking about what is right and moral. 

This would have played out differently in any other civilised country in the world or even in India of 
a few decades ago, which hadn’t lost its soul in the quicksand of communal polarisation. In that India, the government would have forced the wrestling federation president to resign and face inquiry. He would have only returned to his post after proving his innocence in court to render his service. In that India, the dharma gurus and religious leaders would have rallied behind the women and reminded the authorities about Ramayana and Mahabharata, the two epics that showed the fall of the rulers who defiled the dignity of womanhood. The civilisation that upheld such values has muted into something unrecognisable, and that age-old India is long dead. Long live India. 

Anand Neelakantan

Author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy


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