At wrestlers’ sit-in, politics playing out good and proper

It is no one’s case to act as jury or hang or acquit anyone; neither is it to back wrestlers irrespective of their credibility quotient; or paint WFI chief black. On that the best is for the law to take its course.

“You did not prove to be a good father…you did not take care of me…you always thought about yourself…” this was what a suicide note of a 22 year old said: The victim: Shakti Singh.

 It was way back in 2004 that Shakti Singh took his own life blaming his father, Brij Bhushan Singh, for his plight.

Some two decades later, the same man admitted to having committed a murder: “I have committed a murder in the past. Let people say what they want. I did commit a murder,” Singh is reported to have said in an interview.

So who is Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh? A muscle man? A criminal-turned-politician or the other way around? A tyrant? All rolled in one or a Member of Parliament who is a victim of political intrigue?

For record, Singh is a BJP leader and a six time MP from Uttar Pradesh.

In his affidavit submitted for the 2019 elections, there is a mention of four criminal cases including an attempt to murder filed against him. He also spent some months in the Tihar jail for his links with the underworld.

Singh has been President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for over a decade now. There are unsavoury stories about his using muscle power to intimidate those he was handpicked to govern.

Consequently wrestlers took to the streets alleging sexual harassment, physical abuse and financial irregularities in the Federation.

Staging a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi since last month, they are demanding that Singh be arrested.  

 Leading from the front are Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Pogat and Sakshi Malik among others: distinguished sportspersons who have won multiple medals for the country.

Today, they are threatening to return the medals they have won: “If the honour of the medal is like this, what will we do with this medal? It is better that we… return the medals”, Punia told reporters at the Jantar Mantar protest site. He also alleged manhandling by “drunk cops” at the protest site.

On his part, Singh has blamed the Congress for sponsoring the agitation; he has also refused to resign: “I will hang myself if a single allegation is proved” Singh is reported to have said.

 The government did set up a committee to probe the charges but for the agitating sportspersons it was a step “too little too late”.

Much water has flown under the bridge since sportspersons took to the streets. Apart from the sympathy and support that the protests have generated, the fact that award-winning sportspersons are seeking justice does put the Government in the dock. Worse still, the farmers joining in has only fuelled the issue.

Farmer leaders including BKU’s Rakesh Tikait reached Jantar Mantar in solidarity with the protesting wrestlers.

Farmers joining in is not only significant but also reminiscent of the stir and their subsequent victory some two years ago when the Modi government, after much dithering, decided to repeal the three controversial farm laws enacted in 2020.

Irrespective of the outcome, farmers coming in sure adds heft to the on-going agitation and gives hope within some sections that the government may relent as it did in the case of the farmers.

Recall value apart, public sympathy is with the agitating wrestlers given that they are among those who made the country proud.

It is no one’s case to act as jury or hang or acquit anyone; neither is it to back wrestlers irrespective of their credibility quotient; or paint Singh black thanks to his political credentials or dubious past: on that the best is for the law to take its course.

However as things have panned out, politics is playing out good and proper.

Opposition parties and Chief Ministers are losing no time in milking events even as Congress’s Priyanka Gandhi visited Jantar Mantar; Sharad Pawar called out Police behaviour as “sad and disturbing”; Chief Minister M.K.Stalin calling it “gross injustice” and his counterpart Mamata Banerjee using strong words like “disrobing honour of our daughters being shameful”.

On his part, Singh harked back to 2019 when women in Shaheen Bagh in Delhi took to the streets against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Alleging that the wrestlers’ protest is “expanding like Shaheen Bagh”, Singh said that the target of the protest is not him but the BJP and that the protest is “paid”.

That notwithstanding, there is a need to examine the issue from two angles: on the one hand, we need to ask whether it behoves the government of the day to have people take to the streets at the drop of a hat? Whether discontentment, rather anger, is the hallmark of an average Indian today?  

That said, it is important to assess and examine the malaise both within and outside.

It is true that the BJP does little to quell divisiveness: if anything it fans it.

Remember a Union Minister’s desh ke gaddaro ko, goli maaro saalo ko…or the shoot traitors remark while lashing out at CAA protestors? It is well known that the protests were spearheaded by a particular community.  

What about state governments ordering bulldozers to raze homes in select localities?

Divisiveness is one part: the other is the Government’s attitude to ride roughshod over adverse public opinion. As things have panned out, fear and intimidation seems to be the key to governance.

Having said that, it is important to examine the fault-lines and assess whether the discontent is real or one that is engineered?

To be fair to the BJP and Narendra Modi in particular there is an enemy lurking both within and outside. If within, there are anti-Modi elements at work, outside there are anti-India forces.

As for the anti-Modi elements, it is no rocket science to guess that Modi is an anathema to many. And this is not restricted to the political opposition but goes beyond. It extends to those who want to pull down Modi at any cost; those who may not necessarily be pro Congress but sure are anti-Modi. This includes some sections in the media who have made it their business to slam Modi for whatever he does or does not do.

That Modi is dictatorial is a given; like his hate relationship with the majority of the media but that cannot be enough to conclude that he does only wrong and is out to get  people; that he is vindictive and will not spare the enemy. Partly true but then this does not take away the fact that his is a government that has focussed on building toilets, giving loans and gas stoves to women among other things. It also reiterates that he has a vision for India despite the huge amounts being spent on projects which many may deem unnecessary including the Central Vista redevelopment. Or of course devaluing and in many cases finishing off institutions?

But then why single out Modi? What about Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s palatial home on which crores were spent? Or the Nehru and Gandhis using institutions to carry forward the legacy of only one family?

So there are skeletons in every cupboard.

Add to this the fact that forces outside the country would do what it takes to weaken India. It is no secret that internal strife is funded by forces outside. People may be angry and spill to the streets but the funding to sustain them comes from elsewhere.

And here lies the danger. Modi critics should continue to slam him for his government’s wrongdoings; they must rise against high-handedness but while doing that they must guard against being used by anti-India and anti-national forces that are at work. They must guard against the invisible hand which is waiting to strike and strike fatally.

Therefore, while it makes sense to beat the blues out of the devil, one should not lose sight of the bigger game plan of forces that are working overtime to destabilise India as a nation.