Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere; and, therefore, the battle of our women wrestlers is a battle for every woman.
Decades ago, a ferocious and gifted Olympics medal-winning boxer from America named Cassius Clay threw his medal down the river Ohio from a bridge in Kentucky to protest against racism and injustice. He went on to become Muhammad Ali, a legend without peer, not only the greatest of boxers, but one of the best sportsmen of all time. He remains an inspiration for every sports personality who cared about society and an icon in the fight for social reform.
More than any other sports fraternity members in the country today, it is our women who can claim to be the rightful heirs of the spirit of Ali; and are fighting one of the most inspiring and brave of social battles, which is both for their own dignity, and for the health of the larger society.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere; and, therefore, the battle of our women wrestlers is a battle for every woman, no matter where she lives and what her social standing is. And if, as some critics or analysts seek to argue, a protest by a handful of women wrestlers, even if they were of international calibre and have won medals for the country, is a trifle in political terms, that equation is rapidly changing. With Mamata Banerjee also stepping in to offer her support, and the Aam Aadmi Party standing up for them, this is soon acquiring a larger political momentum.
Internationally, too, India is earning headlines in the media for the wrong reasons, an outcome that is best avoided for a country on the rise in all global fora. The G-20 presidency has bestowed on India a far greater responsibility to be an ideal citizen in the comity of nations, and women’s empowerment is a crucial theme for the ongoing year-long series of events. The backdrop of G-20 is not going to be served well if global media headlines are going to constantly highlight wrestlers scuffling with women police officers on the streets of Delhi.
Elsewhere, the reactions have started coming in and they will only accelerate unless the situation is defused. In the sports and world arenas, the United World Wrestling, the apex governing body of amateur wrestling, condemned the treatment of champion wrestlers fighting for justice against a predator in a democracy who were forcibly dragged away and detained. The UWW warned that it is taking notes and is very “disappointed”.
Within the country, farmers who fought and won a pitched battle against the Narendra Modi government, too, have announced that they would back the girls. It has a powerful multiplier potential, one the government must take heed of.
But more than any force — farmers, international sports bodies, the media or G-20 dignitaries — it is the perception that women’s dignity is being compromised by a ruling party leader that can spell disaster. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And these are role models, nay international heroes.
Give them justice, quickly.