Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat (C) with others are detained by the police while attempting to march to India's new parliament during a protest against Brij Bhushan Singh, the wrestling federation chief, over allegations of sexual harassment in New Delhi on May 28, 2023 Image Credit: AFP

India’s daughters. In ‘new India’, it is a misnomer.

Dragged on the streets of the capital and then brutally sent to jail. Women wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar on May 28 were manhandled by Delhi Police.

If India cared for its daughters, then an alleged sexual predator would have been arrested by now instead of an FIR filed against those who accuse of sexual abuse. If it did, they would have been heard, promised justice as is the constitutional right of every citizen of the country.

The daughters are now merely women or girls stripped off their dignity as ironically, they fight for self-respect. Vinesh Phoghat’s words ‘Naya Desh Mubarak ho’ show they have learnt this country asks for more than it gives, sacrifices of bringing glory to the nation include heartbreak and exclusion.

There is no pot at the end of the tunnel. International winners and household names, today the champion wrestlers are disposable as a misogynist narrative builds, circulating morphed photos, questioning their intent and them.

Read more

A culprit at large

When successful athletes are detained, and a case filed against them while a powerful politician belonging to the ruling BJP remains free despite two FIRs in his name, then everything our nation’s constitution stands for is adrift. Is it any wonder that sexual harassment is under reported in our country?

The state action against the wrestlers shows how our tomorrow is now compromised and chained to the ugly strains from our past and present where it is a new dawn for influential men while the soul of the woman is crushed, again and again. India’s daughters anyone?

Has any other country treated its Olympic and world championship winners the way India has debased ours? In just one fell swoop dreams of young girls have also been shattered.

They could have been the next big thing in boxing, wrestling or hockey but why will mothers allow their daughters to play a sport when they are unsafe and must pay for a man’s violence? Why should an Indian girl sacrifice her all to bring glory to a heartless nation? A big chunk of women players come from small villages; message in the bottle is to stay there.

What happens when girls are no longer allowed to leave their homes to stay in training camps because India abandoned its daughters? Will the pampered cricketers look away once from the money crunching of the IPL to think that even the other sex has the right to make a better life?

Silence of celebrities

A sentence is all it would have taken, instead collectively our cricketers have not spoken a word. If they had they could stop some dreams from folding up, these are the same band of men who have taken a knee for Black Lives Matter. Do the lives of the wrestlers not matter to them? Or is it because they know they will never be pushed and dragged through the streets of the country.

Indian cricketers need only look at sportsmen like Neeraj Chopra and Sunil Chhetri to learn how champions are made of finer stuff. Why do non-cricketing icons have the courage to speak while the cricketers noticeably have a missing spine? As fans, we need to think too.

There is also the silence of Bollywood celebrities, those who idolise them can almost hear the shattering of their own dreams. India has also abandoned its daughters because its actors and cricketers with their legion of followers chose to look the other way. They still think it keeps them safe but when they come for them as they invariably do — all it takes is one slip — where will they hide?

Sunday was an auspicious day. India had a new Parliament and the Prime Minister spoke about how ‘India’s democracy is our inspiration.’ Among those present on the occasion was the smiling BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh accused of sexual abuse by multiple Indian wrestlers. He lives life king-size, protected and nurtured.

Just a few kilometres away on the streets of the national capital an Olympic medallist — her Padma Shri and Khel Ratna awards still hanging in her room — was humiliated while a world championship medallist tried to protect her. Their crime, to beg for justice. In India you can get a new parliament, but your fundamental right is not a guarantee.

Has anyone seen India’s daughters?