BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Wrestlers have been protesting against the Wrestling Federation of India chief on charges of sexually exploiting women wrestlers while India seems to look on as a political farce unfolds with authorities preferring to wait and, in the bargain, slur sports.
Sexual exploitation of sportspersons in India is not new. Women athletes have been physically abused by those in power in the past. Despite protests, the charade of attempting to help has continued. And, as time elapses, the number of those suffering keeps increasing.
Today, it is not about the sporting accolades one has won and where for the country, but about how sportspersons are treated in India. The answer will leave a bad taste as it reveals an India where oppression is the norm and nobody in authority bats an eyelid.
Just the will to do the right thing is needed to find the solution to the problem faced by wrestlers and other sportspersons. Yet, the wrestlers have to brave the heat, the cold and the trolls for a problem that can be resolved.
Female and male sportspersons have been physically abused in the past in India. When it happened, many a time due to social stigma, we have preferred to remain silent, hoping for time to heal the Indian conscience.
When healing does not voluntarily happen, the people’s conscience reacts and what is happening at Jantar Mantar today is that reaction, which people in power are refusing to acknowledge.
The citizens' protest in Delhi is also an indicator of the cesspit of scandal that the world of sports in the country has become. Power and money can corrupt men to the core. Finally, there is a reaction to this quagmire of dishonesty.
AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey said:
“What wrestlers have done is not good for the country. It’s not good for the image of the country. Our honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been doing so much for sports and then you have these wrestlers sitting on the streets and protesting. This sets a bad precedent.”
President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) P T Usha came under fire for her utterances against the protesting athletes, with Shashi Tharoor hitting out:
“Dear PT Usha, it does not become you to disparage the justified protests of your fellow sportspersons in the face of repeated and wanton sexual harassment. Their standing up for their rights does not ‘tarnish the image of the nation’. Ignoring their concerns – instead of hearing them out, investigating them and taking just action – does.”
The reactions of PT Usha and Kalyan Chaubey clearly indicate who their masters are and how people capable of taking sports forward are often sidelined by nincompoops.
This is the reason why sports in India has little scope for improvement. The snowball of unethical behaviour and corruption keeps rolling on instead of being stopped, predicting an avalanche of gargantuan proportions.
The protesting wrestlers questioned the silence of Sachin Tendulkar. Perhaps they are not aware that the so-called “God of cricket” is going out of his way to create a miracle that will see his son Arjun play for India – at any cost. And for that to happen, the goalposts of the present political dispensation cannot be shifted.
Arjun represented Goa, as he did not meet Mumbai’s standards, for the Ranji Trophy. Despite his lackadaisical performance, he found a place in Mumbai Indians for the IPL. He was praised for scoring a century for Goa – he was dropped on 18 – and for an over for Mumbai before being belted for 32 in another.
An AIFF coach was removed as coach of the women’s team after allegations of sexually violating a female player when the Indian team was preparing for the FIFA World Cup. Months on, he is a free bird whilst the oppressed girl must be caged with feelings of torment.
Given the statements of Kalyan Chaubey, can justice be expected?
That women in sports are treated with disdain in Goa came to the limelight when the Goa Football Association (GFA) preferred to look the other way when a report by the coach – a copy which is with AIFF – accused the manager of entering the women’s changing room even after being warned not to twice.
A committee was formed to investigate the accusation, and it fell into cold storage with the committee appointed to investigate finding nothing wrong, for lack of evidence. Was it because AIFF did not share the evidence?
Incidentally, one of the members of the committee is today holding the post of vice president of GFA. This is the irony of sports in India. Misfits think they can add feathers to their caps by occupying administrative places in sports.
Society keeps quiet, and it is our silence that leads to tears in the eyes of the sexually oppressed. A sad Indian psyche that permeates through sports quite blatantly.