In (Un)democratic wrestling arena, the winner takes all

We are not getting into the complexities of this specific case. It may well be that the not-so-poor fellow has been falsely implicated by opponents as part of political vendetta.

Published: 18th June 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th June 2023 10:22 AM   |  A+A-

The ugly spectacle that has been unfolding for weeks highlighting the plight of female wrestlers—Olympians and multiple award winners—constrains us to ponder over the reality of power in contemporary India, 75 years after independence.

The political heavyweight embroiled in the controversy, Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, six-time MP from Gonda, Uttar Pradesh, has amply demonstrated his clout. Real clout, it seems, is the ability to flout ‘due process of law’, signalling once again—if reminder was needed—that lawmakers are above the law of the land. 

We are not getting into the complexities of this specific case. It may well be that the not-so-poor fellow has been falsely implicated by opponents as part of political vendetta. Ironically, there is no opposition in sight to target an allegedly bahubali neta whose fiefdom extends over hundred of acres sprawling across different districts, owns and manages dozens of educational institutions and parks a helicopter in the backyard. 

But let us not digress.

The case highlights the powerlessness of some leaders considered even more powerful till now. Tongues have started wagging that the Prime Minister is keeping silent because he is reluctant to upset the electoral apple cart in Uttar Pradesh keeping in mind the 2024 General Elections. Ditto for the home minister. But, what about the chief minister of the state? Hadn’t Yogi Adityanath promised to raze to rubble properties amassed by persons who acted as law unto themselves? It is not unreasonable to ask who is more powerful and relevant in the context of Uttar Pradesh today—Brijbhushan or Bishtji? Both belong to the same caste and there appears to be reluctance to trespass into other’s turf. 

The case has also exposed the powerlessness, nay impotence, of the media. The entire nation has watched on live TV how brutally the police removed the female wrestlers from the designated site of protest. The Delhi Police was compelled to file an FIR when pressured by the Supreme Court and since drawn its feet to follow up the investigation. Law in cases where the powerful are concerned certainly takes a meandering course along the long and scenic route. Let’s not mention the forever conspiring foreign media trying to obstruct India’s march to glory and prosperity. What is bewildering is that now the police have asked the complainant wrestlers to provide videos/photographs/sound recordings of alleged sexual abuse. The accused remains innocent till proven guilty and the burden of providing proof in a cognisable crime is put on the victim.

It is also time that we shed the belief that the rich, even the super rich, are powerful. The abuse of state machinery—ED, CBI and Narcotics Control Bureau, not to forget the local police—can bring them to knees in a jiffy. A single rogue or pliant officer can wreak havoc. Remember the Aryan Khan case that continues to unravel? 

The silence of the habitually roaring lions is explained only by their vulnerability. With the honourable exception of about half-a-dozen fellow sportspersons, the rest have zipped their lips. 

To be fair, one must underline this isn’t the first time such brazenness is being witnessed. The MP whose son allegedly had run over protesting farmers continues to be ministerial colleague of NaMo and Amitbhai. Not for a day was it considered necessary to step down till the investigation was complete. Even before this, there was another BJP MP who was charged with grave sexual crimes and was sent to prison only after furore in the media. Sadly, we have been desensitised since then.

It’s not just the BJP though that is burdened with bahubalis. Burdened is perhaps the wrong word; anyone who can wield muscle or money power should be seen as an electoral asset. And caste or community can be an invincible force multiplier. No political party—national or regional—is lacking such assets. Azam Khan in his heydays treated Rampur as his pocket burrow; he humiliated senior government officials, abusing and threatening them all the time. The reign of terror that Atiq Ahmed and Mukhtar Ansari unleashed for years has only ended recently. They could do so only because they enjoyed the patronage and protection of BSP and SP. If the dreaded outlaw belonged to the minority community, the secular parties like the Congress and RJD looked the other way. Do the names Shahabuddin, Pappu Yadav and others ring a bell? The mafia dons carefully cultivate a Robin Hood image as protector of the poor and a philanthropist. None dares to puncture the bubble.  

Two unescapable conclusions emerge from the foregoing. 

All power emerges from the electoral political gun. In this (un)democratic wrestling arena, where no holds are barred, the winner takes all. And we the People of India are being rendered truly powerless all the time. 

Pushpesh Pant

Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University

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