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The wrestlers’ protest

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Suniel Parihar
Suniel Pariharhttp://sunielparihar.com
Suniel Parihar is an Indian Army veteran and a Positive Psychology Practitioner. A published author, he has written three books viz. India's Spy Agencies : Shaken Not Stirred , 70 Years of India's Independence ( coauthored) , and Heal Yourself to Happiness. When he is not writing, Suniel spends most of his time reading, cooking , meditating and being one with nature.

As the wrestlers’ protest at Jantar Mantar- arguably India’s most popular protests arena- took a new turn after a clash between the protesting wrestlers and Delhi Police the other day, one wonders what’s really happening and why.

What’s happened so far?

The protesters organized a sit –in at Jantar Mantar in January this year demanding that the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh should resign, as he has sexually assaulted several female wrestlers– including a minor– during his tenure at the top post.

However, after an assurance that the Central Government will form a committee to look into the matter, the protests were soon called off. The report by the committee was submitted on 5 April but not made public. The protesters renewed their protest on 23 April alleging inaction by the authorities.

Earlier, the Delhi Police had filed two FIRs against Singh after intervention of the Supreme Court. The first FIR had been registered under the POSCO Act based on the allegations of a minor. The second FIR was registered for a comprehensive investigation into the complaints by other complainants under relevant sections pertaining to outraging of modesty.

Consequently, the statement of the seven female wrestlers including a minor was recorded by the police.

Overview and looking back

Apparently, there’s something more to it than meets the eye.  B B Singh has been in charge of the WFI since 2012. Among the wrestlers who are protesting against him now, some were his fans earlier. But things can change fast especially in politics. A little digging into the past reveals that like most sports associations in India, the WFI too is deeply politicized. In 2011 elections for its President’s post , the winner was a wrestler named Dushyant Sharma from J&K.

However, the wrestling federation of Haryana appealed to Delhi High Court against the election process and the court ordered a reelection. There were two strong candidates for the coveted post viz. BB Singh and Deependra Hooda. Out of the two, Singh having more political clout, won the reelection and ever since then has been at the helm. India’s wrestlers have done quite well during his tenure winning many medals at international competitions; medals that they now wish to immerse in the holy Ganga.

Rift between Singh and his bête noire Hooda, who was heading  the Haryana Wrestling Association, became more pronounced  when new selection policy was introduced by WFI in November 2021. The changes in the selection process were strongly opposed by the Haryana Wrestling Association as the same were perceived to be inimical to their interest. Things came to such a pass that Hooda was removed from his post in June 2022 and Rohtas Singh was appointed in his place by the WFI.

 Politicization of the protest

It’s none other than the star wrestler Bajrang Punia  who claimed that some individuals were trying to steer the ongoing protests to a different direction, while adding that they would not let the movement get politicized. However, later the wrestlers expressed their willingness to welcome anyone who wants to come out in their support, including the political parties.  And then as if waiting for a cue,  political parties, farmers unions, Khap leaders  et al, jumped into  the band wagon.

The way forward

All protests ultimately have to find a closure. This one should too. The wrestlers need to understand a few things.

First, whatever is the merit of their grievances, after a certain point such agitations tend to lose steam and as a matter of fact, become counter-productive. It’s pretty much obvious that most of their supporters – be it politicians or others – have their vested interests and are trying to fire from their broad shoulders.

Second, other than the aforementioned supporters, their protest has actually failed to gather mass support from the public. People in general seem to be fed up of recurring protests in the national capital over the last few years. The wrestlers attempt to protest outside the new parliament as it was being inaugurated has not gone down well with the public.

Third, since the wrestlers’ allegations are being investigated by the police as directed by the Supreme Court, the wrestlers should have faith in the law of the land. In any case, their agitation has already been hijacked by the usual suspects. They shouldn’t let themselves be exploited anymore.

The government on its part must be proactive in dealing with this situation and not play the waiting game. At the time of writing, some International wrestling organizations have conveyed their concern over this issue and warned of consequences to the WFI.

“Let the law take its own course” is fine but this being a special case involving national sports heroes, a swift action is needed by the law enforcement agencies. They must decide fast whether allegations against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh are true or false, and then take action accordingly to put an end to this serious issue.    

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Suniel Parihar
Suniel Pariharhttp://sunielparihar.com
Suniel Parihar is an Indian Army veteran and a Positive Psychology Practitioner. A published author, he has written three books viz. India's Spy Agencies : Shaken Not Stirred , 70 Years of India's Independence ( coauthored) , and Heal Yourself to Happiness. When he is not writing, Suniel spends most of his time reading, cooking , meditating and being one with nature.
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