AA Edit | Don’t treat wrestlers callously

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

Their sit-in strike of more than a month at Jantar Mantar was dismantled to bring a brutal end to a sordid chapter

Wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia speak with the media during their protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Photo: PTI)

The Establishment must be wrestling with its conscience over whether it has done the right thing by mistreating the women wrestlers who had several complaints of sexual harassment against their former federation chief. Acting on their masters’ orders, the police did a thorough job, perhaps excessively in manhandling the protesters while dragging medal-winning athletes into police vans. Their sit-in strike of more than a month at Jantar Mantar was dismantled to bring a brutal end to a sordid chapter of unconscionable action by the government against young athletes.

The sports administrator, accused of serial sexual harassment and booked under the rigorous Pocso Act too, is a free man who was present at the inaugural of the new Parliament on Sunday. It is not known whether he was ever interrogated by the police regarding the charges against him. It is debatable if he is so powerful for the Establishment to back him like this to the extent of not even a credible probe being conducted to determine if he is innocent or guilty. It appears the government, which once let a minister in the external affairs ministry go when accused of harassment of women in a similar vein, may have predetermined this course of action in this case.

The athletes, who pour their sweat and blood into competing honourably when representing the country in the toughest international competitions like the Olympics, the Asian and Commonwealth Games, World championships, etc., have been let down by society itself. While democracies like the US and the UK have taken pride in seeing the most powerful like former Presidents and movie moguls stand scrutiny in courts of law for errant behaviour with women, the most populous democracy has been exposed as one with a system that is insensitive to women’s plight in male-dominated settings.

The treatment meted out to the medal-winning wrestlers like Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh  and Sangeeta Phogat, was a brutal one that betrayed the thinking of an inflexible Establishment that may believe it is always right. Everything to be done towards ensuring safety of women routinely harassed in public places, at the workplace and elsewhere appears to be only lip service. Indian society must hang its head in shame for treating the wrestlers in this heartless manner. The issue is about creating an open and empowering environment in sport for enabling young athletes to perform their best.