Solidarity with Women Wrestling Against Abusive Power, Arrest Brij Bhushan Singh, Democratize Sports Federations

wrestlers protest

7th May, 2023: National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) expresses full solidarity with the women wrestlers of our country who have been agitating for action against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and BJP MP from Kaiserganj (UP), on grounds of repeated instances of sexual harassment and abuse of power. We condemn the callousness and high-handedness of the Union Government that has not only failed to act on the serious charges (FIRs) against Brij Bhushan Singh (two under the POCSO Act), but has been actively protecting him, despite the matter having been raised repeatedly, over the last two years by the women wrestling champions, meriting intervention even by the Supreme Court.

The entire country and the world-at-large has been witnessing this sordid saga of the internationally renowned wrestlers having to fight for justice, protesting again at Jantar Mantar since 23rd April 2023, while those in high positions of power are doing everything possible to not only deny them justice and the right to protest, but also discredit them and previous democratic movements, such as the farmers protests. Going by current information, the ‘Committee’ constituted by the Sports Ministry and IOA seems more like an eye-wash. We are, therefore, fully supportive of the demand that Mr. Singh be expelled as WFI President and an independent inquiry be conducted into the matter, given the apathy, inaction and non-accountability on part of the WFI and Govt. of India.

We also strongly denounce the manner in which the Delhi Police has manhandled the protestors, be it at Jantar Mantar or in other parts of Delhi, attempting to forcibly disband the rightful and peaceful gathering, inflicting abuse and violence on sportspersons and students, and denying the democratic right to protest, in face of systemic apathy. It is amply clear that people like Mr. Singh are indicative of the criminalization and corruption within the institutions of this Govt., who seem to receive patronage at the highest levels, including from the Prime Minister and Home Minister.  

Sexual violence and harassment at work places is a serious offence and given its all-pervasive prevalence in all workspaces, the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act, 2013 was enacted by the Indian Parliament, after protracted struggles by the feminist movements in India. It is a colossal shame that even a decade after passing of the law, over half of the sports federations in India still have not set up Internal Complaints Committees, mandatory for all governmental and private organizations in the country. This is but one indicator of the utterly patriarchal nature of public, institutional and workspaces in our society.

Akin to its miserable role in previous instances like Kathua, Gujarat, Hathras, this episode has, yet again, exposed the hollowness and complicity of the Government that raises empty slogans of ‘empowering’ women and girls, even as it protects the powerful perpetrators and its own vested interests. That even those who brought laurels to the country are not spared the wrath of the regime, speaks volumes. In such a scenario, it is indeed heartening to witness the swelling strength and solidarity to the Wrestlers struggle in Delhi and across rural and urban India, much needed in the current times, to take on the arrogance of the fascists-in-power, even as many ‘celebrities’ choose to remain mum or take the side of the oppressors.

 

WE DEMAND:

 

  • Govt of India must immediately arrest Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, based on FIRs filed. 
  • An independent inquiry must be instituted into all the charges of sexual harassment, corruption and abuse of authority by Mr. Singh and WFI.
  • The right to protest of the wrestlers and those in solidarity with them must be fully upheld and legal action must be taken against the police officials for their violent excesses.
  • Democratization of all Sports Federations and bodies, replacing corrupt, abusive persons in positions of power, with those who are competent and committed to the well-being of sportspersons and sport.  
  • Implementation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act, 2013 in full letter and spirit, across all workplaces.

Issued by National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)          E-mail: [email protected]

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