Wrestling for justice: On the protest by the wrestlers

The Wrestling Federation needs an overhaul in the wake of the allegations 

June 02, 2023 12:20 am | Updated 10:24 am IST

Wrestlers demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been accused of sexual harassment, continue to discuss their plans to keep their stir alive. The protest is no longer about the technicality of the investigations. There can be no two opinions on the platitude of the law taking its own course. The fact that an MP of the ruling party faces no political censure in the face of such serious allegations, including under POCSO, is disturbing for probity in public life, and sports administration. The Delhi Police maintain that the cases against Mr. Singh are under investigation and a status report will be submitted in the court. But the fact that the police force had to delete its own social media posts that made this benign claim raises questions about the fairness of its probe. On Tuesday, the stir by the wrestlers (they include international medal winners), took an emotional turn when they gathered in Haridwar to immerse their medals in the Ganga. They stepped back at the last moment, but are unwilling to give up their clamour for justice.

The protest has found support from civil society, and has been noticed by international sporting bodies, including the International Olympic Committee and the United World Wrestling that have condemned the police crackdown on the wrestlers, which happened on the day India inaugurated its new Parliament building. Jat farm leaders in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and Haryana have also come out in support of the wrestlers, resolving to strengthen the agitation. Meanwhile, Mr. Singh, far from facing condemnation by the ruling party, appears to enjoy the patronage of its leadership. The powerful MP from U.P.’s Kaiserganj is blaming the protesters and mobilising his supporters. Once accused in a TADA case, Mr. Singh appears to be too valuable in the BJP’s scheme of things. There can be no case that anyone should be punished without due process which involves investigation and trial, but the question of probity must have a higher standard. The allegations against Mr. Singh are of a serious nature that diminish his capacity to be at the helm of a prestigious sporting body. While the criminal investigation must not be influenced by street protest, the message has to be clear to all, particularly the victims and the perpetrators, that there is zero tolerance of sexual harassment in India.

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