In India, Brij Bhushan Saran Singh, a powerful member of parliament from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the chief of the Wrestling Association of India, finds himself in the dock.
The police have filed multiple charges against him related to offences of sexual harassment, molestation and stalking according to Indian Express, a leading mainstream newspaper.
The charge sheet filed on June 13 says in one particular case Singh, indulged in repeated and continued harassment.
Delhi Police, which carried out the probe in Singh’s case, registered a First Information Report (FIR) only after India’s top Olympian wrestlers went to the Supreme Court for justice.
Delhi Police reports to powerful union minister Amit Shah and can by no stretch of the imagination be described as biased against Singh. On the contrary, the police were extremely accommodating to Singh.
Singh faces a prison term of up to five years under the various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) invoked against him.
Incredibly, the women wrestlers had flagged the same charges against Singh to the oversight panel that turned a blind eye to the serious charges.
Therefore, you would reckon that after the allegations made by the Olympic women wrestlers were endorsed by the investigative authorities, Singh would voluntarily resign or that the BJP would sack him. Well you would be wrong.
Singh and his party appear to have the hide of a rhinoceros when allegations of sexual harassment are concerned. Consider this, the wrestlers went on a strike and slept on Delhi roads to protest against Singh’s serial sexual harassment.
A rival to Yogi
Even the global embarrassment caused to India, which is keen to host the Olympic Games in the future, did not make Singh — clinging like a limpet to his post — quit.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been left red faced and squirming in embarrassment at India’s intransigence over action against Singh.
So why did the Indian government embarrass itself over sticking by Singh when his position was indefensible?
Well mainly two reasons. The prime background reason is that Singh is a UP politics old style “Bahubali” (strong man) who is supposed to influence voting along the Ayodhya belt in half a dozen constituencies.
Which is why Singh made the arrogant public announcement that he would be contesting the 2024 Lok Sabha elections again from Kaiserganj without even the pretence of bothering to consult the BJP.
The second, more complicated reason is that the BJP high command (which now resembles the fabled Congress high command at the zenith of Indira Gandhi) is using Singh to counter balance and prop up a rival to Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Both the “Thakur” leaders cannot see eye to eye and Yogi has made no secret of his allergy to Singh.
With the General Elections counting down, the BJP doesn’t want to take the risk of a single Lok Sabha seat in UP (the state has a whopping number of 80 seats) so it can’t seem to be getting tough on Singh.
Somethings do not change
The other reason is India's embarrassing classist secret. The women wrestlers -- much feted when they won medals for India -- are not adequately supported or recognised outside of their sporting achievements.
The rural milieu they come from sees women in stark terms. Women are either “devis” who are the repository of the men’s “izzat” (respect) or trouble making “bad girls”.
The bulk of the women wrestlers come from Haryana and there are already rumblings in the villages that to protect girls they should be asked to stay from sports.
It’s a crying shame that Singh’s alleged shenanigans are affecting the chances of talented sports women of India but, that’s the way it is.
Something that remains unchanged. Which is why horrific incidents of some rowdy upper-caste men urinating on tribal men keep hitting the headlines. This breed is so proud of their deeds that they get themselves filmed to share it on social media.
This double whammy of classist prejudice and the power represented by Singh were the odds facing the women wrestlers. Kudos to them that they fought against impossible odds to make the point that sexual harassment was not acceptable.
Sadly, do not hold your breath for action against Singh. Somethings do not change — even in new India.