By Arun Srivastava
Cruel joke is being played with the women wrestlers who enhanced the prestige of India in global fraternity by winning medals in international championships. In the evening of May 3 while addressing the election rally in Karnataka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that he was a celebrant of the Nari Shakti (women’s’ power), but in the midnight on the same day the Delhi Police acting under the command of his lieutenant Amit Shah was assaulting, insulting and outraging the modesty of the women wrestlers along with a woman journalist, Sakshi, who had covered the sordid incident at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.
In the attack two men wrestlers received injuries on their heads which eventually had to be stitched. A women journalist was also thrashed. What was most glaring that not a single woman constable accompanied the Delhi police contingent that let loose terror. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Delhi’s police resembled more like Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s infamous political police force than a force of democratic India.
While the women wrestlers showed their injuries to the media next day and the male wrestler Bajrang Punia narrated the entire event how the police let loose its terror act, the Delhi police next day denied the allegations and said that no force was used against them and no one was assaulted. Significantly later the DCP tweeted; “Regarding injury to one protestor, he left the hospital against medical advice and has not given a statement to the police yet”. Undeniably the statement of the DCP is a sort of confession when he says one protester was injured. Did the protester inflict the injury on his own body by his own hands? DCP should have come out clean and explained how the protester received injury.
It was a shameful for Delhi police to conceal its mercenary action. The police action simply reinforces the belief that the entire action was premeditated and carried out at the instruction of some top person to hide the heinous conduct of Singh. Indeed shameful, in their design to conceal the truth, the Delhi Police defended itself by blaming the protesters of becoming aggressive after they were stopped from taking folding beds at the protest site. Whom the police were trying to fool? The most glaring has been the repression that night was carried out after ACP Dharmendra arrived at the scene.
These wrestlers have already suffered a lot. These women wrestlers have been on dharna for last eleven days demanding action against the WFI chief Brij Kishore Singh, a BJP stalwart of UP, for sexually exploiting women wrestlers. For last four months, these wrestlers, who have represented the country in the high-ranking sporting events across the world are running from pillar to post for seeking justice and all they have received is neglect and rather arrogant response from the Central Government.
It is equally distressing that Modi who had given the slogan of “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” has not shown his even scant care to these exploited wrestlers. In an ordinary situation a common man found involved in this nature of crime should have been sent to jail by the police. But the Delhi police is unmoved. The Delhi police registered FIR against Brij Bhushan only after Supreme Court’s direction. But indeed a sad commentary, even after filing FIR it has refrained from arresting him. Undeniably this is manifestation of utter contempt of Delhi police to the Supreme Court.
The design of the Delhi police to evict the wrestlers from Jantar Mantar got exposed through their action. During the day it rained heavy s such the place where the wrestlers were sitting on dharna got completely drenched. Obviously they could not sleep on the land filled with water. The wrestlers requested somebody to bring some folding cots. After the cots arrived the police objected to it. Before that as Bajrang Punia told the media, that one junior police officer had allowed them to bring cots.
Around 11 pm on Wednesday, a scuffle broke out when the wrestlers were bringing in folding beds for sleeping and the on-duty police personnel began enquiring about their action as rules do not permit bringing in such items at the protest site. Vinesh and Sakshi claimed they were abused and ill-treated by male police officers, leaving them in tears.
An insight into the Delhi police action would make it explicit that from the beginning it has been shielding Brij Bhushan, obviously for the reason that he has been too close to power. One of the seven wrestlers one is a minor, inviting the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act provision, but the Delhi police had initially refused to file a FIR. What does it imply? It acted only after direction of the Supreme Court.
But again it was not honest. The Supreme Court had directed the police to record the statement of all the seven complainants. But the wrestlers after the May 3 gory incident told the media at Jantar Mantar that except the minor girl the statement of no other wrestler has been recorded. But on his part the police told the apex court that statements of five complainants, including the minor, have been recorded under section 161 of the CrPC. The Delhi Police also told the court that obeying its direction it has also provided security to the minor in the sexual harassment case and to other 6 women wrestler complainants. This claims gives rise to the question where were these guards when the police tortured and assaulted them?
Disgusted at the attitude of the Modi government and Delhi police the wrestlers have decided to return their medals to the government. They have one refrain if the WFI and government cannot provide as safety and justice what is the use of getting these medals.
“If this is how the wrestlers will be treated, what will we do with the medals? Rather, we will live an ordinary life and return all the medals and awards to the Indian government,” Bajrang Punia, an Olympic bronze medallist, told reporters. Vinesh, Sakshi and Bajrang are all winners of Khel Ratna, the country’s highest sporting honour. Sakshi (2017) and Bajrang (2019) are also recipients of the Padma Shri, the country’s fourth highest civilian honour. True enough in a letter to Amit Shah who is the boss of the Delhi police the wrestlers have complained about the behaviour of his police and in the same letter they have expressed their desire to return the medals.
After the seven wrestlers resorted to dharna a couple of months back alleging sexual harassment by the WFI chief Brij Bhushan, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) formed a panel in January to investigate the charges. Sports Minister Anurag Singh Thakur said the probe would be completed in four weeks. The inquiry report was ready in April, but the findings were not made public. Shockingly committees’ report remains under wraps, barring the leak that it has skirted the specific issue of their complaint against Brij Bhushan. It recommended closer interaction between players and administration.
Having failed to get justice from Modi and his government, the wrestlers eventually approached the top court, which, upon hearing their plight had observed that the matter is a “serious” one, and issued notices to the Delhi Police and the Wrestling Federation, returnable on Friday, April 28. After police assurance to carry out its directives, the Supreme Court closed the proceedings and directed them to go lower court or to High Court. Legally the Supreme Court is absolutely correct. Significantly the protesting wrestlers did not lose heart instead they said it was not a setback for them and they will continue their agitation till Brij Bhushan. But the question remains, why the Supreme Court did not clarification from Delhi police as to how the women wrestlers were assaulted? What was the reason for provocation for police to act in this manner?
The CJI, DY Chandrachud was not correct in observing that the purpose of the wrestlers’ petition has been served as an FIR has been registered and security has been provided to wrestlers. He ought to have asked the Delhi police why Brij Bhushan has yet not been arrested after being charged with ill-treatment with a minor girl. CJI on many occasions had observed that he was not satisfied with the functioning of the lower courts. It was in the interest of justice delivery, humanity and the human rights that he should have given some more time and ensure that justice is being done.
The pain and agony of the wrestlers could be comprehended from the lament of India’s ace grappler Bajrang Punia that wrestlers are willing to return to the government the medals, which they have won for the country over the years if police continue to dishonour them. Punia alleges that drunk cops manhandled wrestlers late on Wednesday night when they wanted to bring in folding beds to the protest site.
What is happening with these wrestlers is virtually disrobing the honour of the daughters. This is not a fight of wrestling alone. It is for the self-respect of all sports women in the country. Vinesh Phogat, a triple Commonwealth Games gold medalist, revealed several coaches have also sexually harassed women wrestlers at national camps. She also accused Sports Minister Thakur of “trying to suppress” the case. “It is very difficult to stand against a person who is misusing his power and position for so long.” (IPA Service)