HOW CAN OLYMPIANS GIVE UP!by HUMRA QURAISHI May 17 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 13 secs
Humra Quraishi writes about Olympians Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia’s relentless fight for justice against a politician perpetrator who roams free months after serious allegations have been made against him.
Top wrestlers of India have been staging a protest at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar since mid-April. They are serious allegations of sexual harassment against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is also a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Uttar Pradesh. And, he is the same man who in the winter of 2021 was seen slapping another young wrestler during the national championship event held in Jharkhand, Ranchi, where he was the chief guest on the first day of the Under-15 National Wrestling Championship. He went up to the stage and slapped the participant in full public view, yet he was neither questioned nor ousted from his post.
Even today, after several women and men wrestlers have made serious allegations of sexual harassment against him, he remains brazen, unaffected! Why does the government of the day talk about welfare when it can’t protect the dignity of women and children! It’s these top wrestlers who have slogged for years, bringing glory to our country, yet they are being treated so shabbily. Why?
How hollow do the political speeches and well-crafted slogans of ‘beti bachao…’ sound, when our sports persons sit in the open at Jantar Mantar and demand action against this man. It is an absolutely just demand, yet their pleas are unheard.
Why is this particular politician getting this level of protection when he is accused of a serious crime – that of sexual harassment? Are Indian women safe when criminals go about doing as they please, without fear of arrest and dismissal? If the country’s top wrestlers and their demand for justice can be ignored by the authorities of this land, then one can imagine the fate of ordinary citizens who face patriarchy and misbehaviour of men day after day. Think about the agony of Bilkis Bano whose rapists, and the murderers of her young child, are roaming free after their release!
In fact, during rioting and pogroms, women, children and young boys are subjected to abuse by the rioters, yet they, the riot pogrom victims, have to be silent. How will they survive in this land otherwise?
I recall, soon after the Muzaffarnagar riots and displacements, women survivors talked about their molesters-tormentors but didn’t dare to name them because they were afraid to lose what remained of their homes. Even during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom the injured- molested-raped survivors had to be quiet fearing the aftermath. While the culprits roam free, the victims hide because they have no other way of protecting themselves. This is the reality of these dark dangerous times.
Two important personalities born in the month of May are Saadat Hasan Manto and Mrinalini Sarabhai. I can’t help that they feature in my mind when I write about injustice. Mrinalini Sarabhai’s 105th birthday was on the 11th May. She was a sensitive person who reached out to everyone. Soon after the Gujarat pogrom, I’d written a piece for The Indian Express titled ‘Where is our God ?…Not In Bharat, Apparently!’ It was a painful cry from my heart. Perhaps, the cry was piercing enough to have touched her.
Within a week of the publication of that piece, I received a handwritten letter from her - soothing, gentle words, conveying to me that together we are going to fight this battle against communal poisoning, and also that no matter what happens we, the people of this country, have to put up a united front. We never saw each other. Yet, after reading my piece, she took the pains to write to me at the Indian Express address, which was later re-directed to me.
Let me leave you with this verse of RAHUL GAUR from the Amity Peace Poems (Hawakal Publishers):
I Am Sorry./I really am./I am sorry for the little child/Who waited and writhed in hunger,/Whilst our saviours/in their ivory towers,/lay with their bellies full/in a deep slumber.//I am sorry,/oh, old lady,/because you waited,/while tears dried up/on your cheeks/for the one who would never return:/he - your son,/and the frantic crowds/in the distance,/smeared in his blood,/danced in fun.//I am sorry/for you - the poor man./Barefoot you trudged along,/searching for the promised land,/and your blood wet the ground,/and your sweat,/and the world raved and chanted/about the deeds/of our leaders great.//I am sorry/for me/because I waited and watched,/as they cried for help and their eyes begged of me/to stop.//I laughed at my helplessness./And then I cried./For all of you - mankind,/because I was sorry,/and I still am/I still am.’