PT Usha Who’s Really ‘Tarnishing India’s Image’? Powerful Sexual Abusers Or Those Protesting Abuse?!

There are any number of ‘reasons’ proffered for women being consistently disbelieved, discredited and dismissed; with the accused permitted to go scot free or at least getting the benefit of the doubt.

The women and men who made us proud with their achievements in wrestling have been asking for justice for months. They have kept vigil at Jantar Mantar, slept on pavements, spoken out to the media about their anguish… they have now approached the Supreme Court, seemingly left with no recourse. We look at what Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Anshu Malik, Bajrang Punia and others have been asking for and how the Indian Wrestler’s protest is symptomatic of how victims of sexual abuse, women in particular are still disbelieved.

About sexual harassment and sleeping on the footpaths

Since January of this year, our wrestlers have been on dharna, protesting against multiple acts of alleged sexual misconduct by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, president of Wrestling Federation of India. The sportspersons have alleged that the Singh had been sexually harassing wrestlers for years and cited several such instances, including at least one involving a minor. The wrestlers want action to be taken against Singh who is currently a sitting Member of Parliament and also want the disbanding of the wrestling federation.

At the time, the sit-in at Jantar Mantar was called off based on assurances from the government that a committee would investigate charges. However, three months later, there has been no visible action, not even FIRs filed in the matter. The findings of the committee report have not been made public. The federation has also not been disbanded and Singh continues to wield his power. Hence now, the wrestlers have approached the Supreme Court for redress in the matter.

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Those quick to take credit nowhere among supporters

In the past, these sportswomen and men won some of the highest honours in the world of wrestling – ranging from Olympic medals to Asian Games medals to Commonwealth Game medals to World Championships. At such times, these athletes come home to tumultuous welcomes. They are toasted and feted on social media, and people turn up at airports and their homes in their thousands.

Politicians are quick to take credit. They make sure they find some way to show how their policies or funding or the facilities and opportunities they made available were responsible for these international achievements. Central and state agencies make large prize money announcements, invite the athletes to glittering functions and make the best of the photo ops.

Now, however, these men and women are literally left out in the cold. While there is clamour on social media and sportsmen such as Kapil Dev and Neeraj Chopra have come out in support of the wrestlers, there has been a deafening silence from the powers that be. Top cricketers have remained silent, as have other well-known sportspersons and members of the ruling establishment.

This cut was the deepest

Not only did someone of the stature of P T Usha not come out publicly in support of the protestors, but she actually criticised them.

She said that the protest somehow ‘tarnished the image’ of the country and amounted to ‘indiscipline’. Apparently the protest is bad for our image, not multiple credible sources claiming sexual harassment, mind you.

Yet another example of how the world still chooses to disbelieve women

While there has been huge support for our wrestlers on social media, there are been some who have dismissed the protests as ‘melodrama’ and women asking for ‘special treatment’. Some commentators think this is a battle for power between two states, while some trot out the lame ‘wait till the investigation is done’ banality. For some, this is a battle of the sexes; women ganging up against and needlessly persecuting the ‘poor men’.

Image source: The News Minute

The trigger for these protests that started in January were calls that Vinesh Phogat got from young women wrestlers about an ‘unsafe environment’ at a wrestling camp in Lucknow. As is often the case in such matters, this opened up a can of worms and stories about multiple cases of sexual harassment over the years tumbled out. There are now about six women wrestlers who claim to have proof and are willing to pursue the harassment issue. However, there is still no action taken and those in the establishment appear to be simply dismissing the charges of these women.

These are Olympic medallists and world champions we speak of here – athletes with fame, popularity and significant clout. However, all of this counts for nothing apparently when it comes to a politician with influence, power and clout that outclasses all else. Besides, when has the world believed the words of women when there is a powerful man being accused?

The world has always chosen to disbelieve and look the other way. Either the women are ‘hysterical’ or ‘immature’ or they ‘lead the man on’ or are ‘unclear’ or ‘too ambitious’ or are looking to ‘sleep their way to the top’…. There are any number of ‘reasons’ proffered for women being consistently disbelieved, discredited and dismissed; with the accused permitted to go scot free or at least getting the benefit of the doubt. The pendulum always seems to swing in favour of the powerful – and in most cases the most powerful is that man who has been misusing his power and authority as in the case of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, MP – allegedly.

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About the Author

Reena Daruwalla

A former lawyer, now freelance writer, fauji wife, mother, singer, knitter and lover of my own cooking, I have altogether too many opinions and too few convictions. The more I learn the more I am read more...

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