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Wrestlers begging for dignity

Wrestlers begging for dignity

India's wrestlers, who brought to India global reputation by winning gold medals, have been on a sit-in strike at Jantar Mantar in the capital city for the past four days. Top stars including Olympic medalists Bajrang Poonia, Ravi Dahiya, Sakshi Malik and Commonwealth champion Vinesh Phogat have been protesting in the streets against their association Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The wrestlers have made serious allegations against the federation and the president, including sexually assaulting the players, physically and mentally torturing them and denying rights and benefits by misappropriation of funds. They told their tale of woe to Sports Minister and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President P.T. Usha MP demanding that the culprits be investigated and be kept away from the post and punished severely if found guilty. They allege the serious issue of women's safety and women's pride, not just that of wrestlers. In the complaint given to the IOA President, they state that noted star Vinesh Phogat came to the verge of suicide due to the mental torture of the President. The players have warned that no women should go to the camp for wrestling training and if the government does not find a solution to the problem, they will start training at Jantar Mantar. The Union Sports Minister held talks with the protesters the other day but the talks got nowhere. The Centre has asked the WFI President to submit a report on the incident within three days. However, the President, who is not ready to express regret or explain the incident, is trying to escape by portraying the strike as a political conspiracy.

It is extremely heinous and brings the country to shame in front of the world that players who fight hard for the country and bring medals are subjected to ugly sexual and financial exploitation under the cover of training. The appeal of the wrestlers who went on strike is to save the wrestling body and the country from this shame. But will the BJP be able to oust Brij Bhushan? Since 1991, the BJP has brought in Brijb Bushan Sharan Singh, who has been representing the BJP from Gonda in Uttar Pradesh chiefly in view of the muscle power in Gonda and the six surrounding districts. It is the BJP that needs Singh, who describes himself as a 'strongman' who can beat any wrestler. The President of Gonda not only goes to wrestle wherever there are wrestling matches, but also shouts at the referees, throws the rule books at them and sometimes 'lays hands' on the players. It is curious that Singh was released by the courts in cases one by one for offences like demolishing the Babri Masjid, for harboring a Mumbai underworld gangster accused of murder, and for attempting to kill a Samajwadi Party leader. He continues to be the head of WFI for the last ten years. No one has touched Singh, despite his public criticism of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath last October for his handling of the flood crisis. The reason is his influence in Gonda and six nearby districts. Everyone is watching to see if the BJP can fight this muscle power.

The history of the party and its ruling dispensations convinces that it is not a coincidence that someone like Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was found to reign as the president of a sports organization and the party's unquestioned MP in the BJP regime, which keeps talking about the dignity of Indian womanhood and women's protection. The beloved stars of the country are complaining against the leader of the party of the Prime Minister who calls the slogan 'Beti bachao, Beti padhao' to protect and educate daughters, that the wrestling body chief does not let them live with dignity let alone study. Can the Centre at least fulfil its primary duty of saving the country from this embarrassment? If they don't find time to do that, what kind of new India are the authorities vocal about!

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TAGS:Jantar MantarIndian wrestlers' protestBrij Bhushan Sharan SinghWrestling Federation of India-WFIGonda UP
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