New Delhi recently inaugurated the new Parliament Building on May 28, 2023. In grand ceremonies of ritual and procession, PM Modi and prominent politicians were
in attendance. It is the symbol of the 'New India.' The PM's frequently used term 'Amrit Kal' showcased the new building as a new belief system for the Indian
democracy. The materials, furniture, and workers from the four corners of India are under one roof - a unique representation of a united India.
As the ceremonies and investitures were occurring inside the Parliament, the famous and awarded wrestlers gathered to protest. What was this protest about? The players since April 23 are protesting against the chief of the WFI, the Wrestling Federation of India. The wrestlers demanded that Chief Brij Bhushan should be arrested. The allegations against him are severe: sexual misconduct against female wrestlers.
Wrestlers Binesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia voiced their concerns about the misconduct and alleged inability of Indian law to deliver justice. In an interview with the Indian Express, a reputed media house, Binesh claimed the administration for sports are dismissive of women athletes and their concerns. After the photo-op with athletes and their medals after each game, things return to a grim reality. She mentioned a considerable amount of fear among women for law enforcement officers. Complaints of sexual misconduct are not taken seriously, and the victims are questioned and blamed for their circumstances. Binesh ends the interview hoping the fire of justice they have ignited will not die.
Bajrang Punia, a fellow wrestler, commented that justice for India’s daughters holds more importance than the medal for Asian Games. He threw another bombshell accusation that the WFI chief maintains tight control over the federation by distributing powerful positions to his kith and kin. The protests were held outside the Parliament when Brij Bhushan attended the inauguration. Opposition leaders of Congress and Trinamool Congress expressed support for the protest cause. During the demonstrations, a fight with the police led to these wrestlers with other protestors being arrested for causing riots and hindering the duties of a public servant.
In the aftermath, the wrestlers announced they would discard their medals in the Ganges as a sign of protest. This was met with harsh online criticism as netizens labeled this act ‘unpatriotic.’ Politicians from both sides of the house urged protestors to refrain from violence until the investigations into the allegations are complete. The international reaction to the protests has been noticeable. The world federation for Wrestling has condemned the detaining of the protestors. They intend to ban WFI from participating in future international games.
Accusations of sexual misconduct are not uncommon in the world of sports. The chilling case of Dr. Larry Nasser is fresh in the public conscience. He was in charge of treating sports injuries of American gymnasts. In the pretext of treatment, he exploited young female gymnasts. The world of sports is glamorous, but it is necessary to hold the powerful accountable. As this situation unfolds, a big question looms on the right to protest in India and if it was violated to protect the alleged politician from the consequences.
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