New abode of democracy and protesting wrestlers

On the historic day that saw PM Modi inaugurating the new Parliament building, protesting women wrestlers were allegedly manhandled and detained by cops after they  tried to march to towards Parliament to demand the arrest of WFI President. A report by Sumiti Gaba

The Prime Minister installed the Sengol with Nandi at the top facing East-West direction in the new Parliament House. He also lit up the Diya and offered flowers to the Sengol observing that there are few moments in every nation’s history that are immortalized like this one in “Amrit Mahotsav”. He said that this is not merely a building but is a reflection of the aspirations and dreams of 140 crore Indians and the new Parliament building connects “planning to reality, policy to realization, will power to execution, and sankalp to siddhi”.

Referring to the establishment of sacred Sengol, the Prime Minister said that in the great Chola empire, Sengol was seen as a symbol of the path of service duty and nation.  He said under the guidance of Rajaji and Adheenam, this Sengol became the sacred symbol of the transfer of power. The Prime Minister once again bowed to the Adheenam saints who came to bless the occasion this morning. “It is our good fortune that we could restore the dignity of this sacred Sengol. This Sengol will keep on inspiring us during the proceedings of the House”, he said. The world’s largest democracy moved to the new home, the 64,500 sq metre, four-storey complex, built at a cost of Rs 971 crore taking  over from the iconic circular building that was inaugurated in colonial era in 1927 to function as the legislature of a British India. The Prime Minister said that the new Parliament will give new energy and strength to the largest democracy of the world.

“This new building will become a means of realising the dreams of our freedom fighters,” he added. The speech reflected Modi’s satisfaction with India’s new found confidence and the world’s growing interest in it and said the building would go long further. He said the rest of the world had an important stake in India’s progress. “The faith of India has supported the faith of other countries. And, therefore, when a country like India — full of diversity, a country with such a large population, a country fighting so many challenges — moves forward with belief, it also inspires many other countries. Every success of India is going to be a reason for inspiration in the coming days in the form of the success of different countries in different parts of the world. Today, if India removes poverty fast, it also inspires many countries to come out of poverty. India’s determination to develop will become the strength of many other countries. That’s why India’s responsibility becomes bigger,” he said. “When India moves forward, the world moves forward,” he added.

The same day when lawmakers moved to a new building with 20 political parties boycotting the event, the police detained more than 100 protesters, including champion grapplers Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat. The sit-in site at Jantar Mantar was vacated and according to an FIR, the wrestlers and their supporters ignored a warning by the police that creating a ruckus during the inauguration ceremony would ‘harm national prestige’. The FIR also stated that at least 15 personnel, mostly policewomen, were injured in a scuffle with the protesters.

Olympic medal-winning wrestlers from India have led a protest against WFI President and BJP Member of Parliament Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for more than a month, calling for his arrest for alleged sexual harassment. An FIR was filed against the organizers of the wrestlers’ protest, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).   Ironically the wrestlers who had brought pride into the nation were treated with no respect and dignity. They have kept their nose to the grindstone to earn what they deserve so their demands ought to be taken into account.

Chaos reigned at Jantar Mantar after protesting wrestlers were detained while trying to march to the new parliament building which was being inaugurated. The Delhi Police reported that 700 people, including 109 protesters, were detained throughout the capital. Later that evening, the female detainees were freed. After the wrestlers were detained and pushed into a bus from where they were taken to unknown locations, the Delhi Police cleared the protest site by removing cots, mattresses, coolers, fans and the tarpaulin ceiling along with other belongings of the wrestlers.

Brij Bhushan Sharan is accused by not just by one or two, but seven female wrestlers including one minor, of sexual harassment. Out of the seven, two of the wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat are some of India’s most decorated sportswomen- Sakshi Malik got us the first Olympic medal by a female in wrestling for India, and Vinesh Phogat is the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in the Commonwealth and Asian games. Every young girl who happens to be a part of aspirational India looks up to these wrestlers. But now their dreams are shattered as this unwarranted action by the Delhi police has become a deterrent as parents will now think twice before sending their daughters for sports training.  

The wrestlers are demanding the arrest of WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for sexually exploiting women grapplers are now contemplating their next move.  The action by Delhi Police on wrestlers has received a barrage of criticism from people from the sports fraternity including Javelin champion Neeraj Chopra and former shooter Abhinav Bindra. Besides, opposition parties have also slammed the Centre for not taking action against Bhushan who is also a BJP MP from Kaiserganj. The protesting wrestlers said that they would throw their hard-earned medals into river Ganges and sit on a hunger strike “until death” at the India Gate.

The Jantar Mantar pandemonium might not have happened had the government been proactive about addressing the wrestlers’ grievances. The situation spun out of control because the protesters felt that they were not being taken seriously by the powers that be. The least that the government can do now is to ensure a free, fair and time-bound probe into the serious allegations. Athletes who win laurels for the country in the global arena deserve remedial action and justice.