Wrestling With Untruths, Abuse & Scorn: When Will It End?May 26, 2023 | Shalini Rai
The protesting wrestlers recently announced that they will hold a mahapanchayat in front of the new Parliament building on May 28. They have been protesting at Jantar Mantar for nearly two months now but there has been no satisfactory progress on their main demands. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh remains free and there is no indication that he will be put behind bars any time soon.
Meanwhile, the wrestlers are being made fun of, mocked and humiliated by supporters of the present ruling dispensation. Questions are being raised on their ‘motives’ behind staging the protest; Modi supporters are calling into question their ‘patriotism’ and the Godi media is having a field day castigating the protesting wrestlers even as sporting officials like P.T. Usha have accused the wrestlers of ‘tarnishing’ India’s image. These were Usha’s exact words: “This kind of agitation is not good for the country’s image and amounts to indiscipline. This negative publicity is not good for the country. We want to be with any athlete who has represented India, but under the rules, regulations and law of the land.”
Shockingly, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has even levelled personal allegations against the protesting wrestlers, saying that one of them — Vinesh Phogat — is playing the role of ‘Manthara’.
This is a classic case of putting narrow political considerations above taking the right disciplinary action against powerful sports office-bearers like Singh. There should be no mistake about the impact this has on the wrestlers who are sitting on dharna in the searing heat of April-May at Jantar Mantar. Instead of coming to their help and taking adequate action against Singh, the government of the day has instead called into question their loyalty to the country. This negative assertion became more powerful when farmers who had held over a year-long protest on Delhi borders in 2020-2021 joined the wrestlers, sat down in solidarity with them and assured them all of their unflinching support.
This apparently gave the Godi media and a section of the Twitterati more fuel to berate the wrestlers and their cause. It was clear that the allegations they made against Singh would hold no water since he is fortunate to have political patronage and if action is taken against him, it would somehow amount to showing the current government in a poor light.
The fact is this government is no different from the ones that preceded it and several incidents have proven this over and over again. One that comes readily to mind is the reported mowing down of protesting farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri in October 2021. Since Ashish Mishra, the son of the Union Minister of State for Home was personally, directly involved in the matter, he was granted interim bail in January this year. This despite the fact that vehicles allegedly part of his convoy mowed down a group of protesting farmers in full view of the media and general public. This is a clear indication of how intoxicated with power and the perks of office Mishra was and how this was passed on to this family, including his son.
Clearly, in the case of the protesting wrestlers, if no satisfactory action is taken soon, their mahapanchayat opposite the new Parliament building will add another spectacle to the already-announced boycott of the building by 19 opposition parties. Is this the start the government wants for an iconic structure like the new Parliament building?
First opposition boycott and now wrestlers’ mahapanchayat, with scores of farmer leaders and their supporters rising up to support the wrestlers — this does not augur well for all parties concerned. All that is needed is sincerity and toughness against the accused. It should not be so tough for a government that prides itself on its ‘steeliness’ and ‘surgical strikes’. If only it would turn its attention inward and provide succour where it is most needed.