Editorial: The body blow of indifference
For instance, how come the BJP, especially its UP unit, has a strong supply chain of legislators or party members who face accusations of rape and murder? The Kathua rape-accused and the ghastly Kuldip Sengar rape case come readily to mind.
The wrestlers’ protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi has not quite grown to be the BJP-led government’s Anna Hazare moment but it would be sweet justice if it did. Back in 2011, the BJP-RSS’s shadow operatives orchestrated the India Against Corruption movement with a self-claimed Gandhian as the front to destroy the voters’ trust in the UPA II government. Using social media and ‘I am Anna’ T-shirts, the covert operation attracted hordes of software nationalists and Lutyens liberals to the protest venue. The subsequent Nirbhaya rape of 2012 came in handy for this covert campaign to create a public opinion climate hostile to the Manmohan Singh government and favourable to Narendra Modi, who still reigns as the wheel turns a full circle.
For weeks, India’s decorated women wrestlers have been demanding an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against the Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh. Their protest is beginning to attract the support of women activists, students and farmers from Haryana and Punjab. While a protest organised by pupils of wrestling akharas is not likely to have the love-in feel favoured by urban weekend patriots, it has managed to bring some pertinent questions to the fore and shown the true nature of the current regime in sharp relief.
For instance, how come the BJP, especially its UP unit, has a strong supply chain of legislators or party members who face accusations of rape and murder? The Kathua rape-accused and the ghastly Kuldip Sengar rape case come readily to mind. Brij Bhushan Singh is only the latest in this list of infamy, particularly notorious for boasting on video that he has committed one murder—meaning to say only one—during his six terms in the Lok Sabha. He has even claimed that he was accused of murder by then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee but yet was allowed to remain in the party and Parliament and only booted out when he cross-voted against the BJP’s interests. The fact that he was accommodated by the Samajwadi Party in 2009 and readmitted by the BJP in 2014 only underlines the fact that Indian political parties not only have high tolerance for rape and murder accused but avidly seek their support for electoral goals.
Another question brought up by the wrestlers’ protest is why the wheels of justice grind so slow when it comes to crimes against women? Why did the wrestlers have to go to the Supreme Court to have the police file an FIR in the case against Brij Bhushan Singh? Why aren’t mandated protocols automatically triggered when women allege sexual harassment. The least that could have been done when wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik brought the case out into the open in January was to remove Brij Bhushan Singh from his position of authority as WFI president. It’s a shame that relevant institutions such as the ministries of sport, women’s welfare, law and justice, the women’s commission, even the Supreme Court itself, did not care enough about their mandate to take up the case suo motu.
Amid this episode of shame, the deafening silence of the wider sporting community and the look-away complicity of the likes of PT Usha expose another fact about fame in our country. Why do the famous feel more beholden to power than to the people? It can only be because fame does not liberate; it’s only an entrapment. It cannot be lost on anyone witnessing the drama at Jantar Mantar that when the famous and the powerful do not rise to justice, the verdict is reserved to the people.