Wrestlers Protest

Daughters Against Dictators

Wrestlers Protest

The medieval Raj Tilak of a self-styled messiah in a modern, constitutional, secular democracy, in an overtly religious procession with Hindu priests, will mark a new low in this darkest era of acche din. The other historic low has been the brutal crackdown on our world champion women wrestlers, stamped by jackboots, dragged on the streets, manhandled, humiliated and brutalized, and thereby jailed, their tents and mattresses dismantled at Jantar Mantar, even while scores of women have been arrested, while the history-sheeter/abuser/bahuhabli belonging to the BJP apparently sat cushy in the new Parliament building, sans 20 opposition parties.

Certainly, and undoubtedly, the BJP and its arrogant and ageing leadership, obsessed with the infinite lust for power, will pay a heavy price for this perverse dialectic enacted as a grotesque public spectacle in Delhi. And the way this repressive roller-coaster is rolling, with the capital turned into an armed cantonment and its borders sealed, history might repeat itself much before the final countdown of 2024.

In a front page lead article (May 23, 2023) in the Indian Express, Vinesh Phogat wrote: “We would have regretted it for the rest of our lives. What is the point of the medals around your neck if you can’t fight for justice? We are fighting against the system so that the next generation of women can wrestle and play and compete in a safe environment…”

On May 23, Vinesh, her friends, Sakshi and Bajrang Punia, both international medalists, among other conscientious athletes like Sangeeta Phogat, and die-hard supporters in solidarity, marked one month of their peaceful struggle. They have been sleeping out in the open in this heat-wave, surrounded by mosquitoes, dust and pollution, with bad toilets, and outside the cushy comfort zones of the well-off classes in Delhi. They are stoic, solid, steadfast – and their morale remains as high as ever.

Barring the thick-skinned ruling apparatus, their struggle has touched a deep and enduring chord across the national landscape, especially among mothers, sisters, daughters. They are the brave betis who are now staking their young life and times as iconic role models for the entire womanhood in India, much greater, or, as great as when they stood on global podiums in glittering, packed stadiums, with their medals, while the national anthem played in the background. Their names will now be etched in a rainbow of gold, carved eternally in the memory of the nation, for all times to come. Despite the jackboots!

Besides, they took on the entire might of the State machinery, against all odds, and despite being threatened, remained unflinchingly brave, resilient and resolute. In their heart of hearts, inside their deepest political subconscious, every woman in India, and every democratic and secular citizen, is sending a salute of gratitude and admiration to these young brave-hearts, and wishing them success after this prolonged and hard battle against a notorious bahubali from Eastern UP, brazenly backed, and so shamelessly, by the ‘beti parao, beti bachao’ fake apparatus!

ALSO READ: Women Wrestlers Grappling For Justice

Ironically, this regime is not realizing the infinite damage this protracted struggle is going to do to them in the short and long run. By protecting a history-sheeter, accused by seven women wrestlers, including a minor, in clear testimonies, what is the message they are sending to the nation, and to the mothers and daughters of India?

Those who are on the edge of aspirations, those who are surmounting all odds to break the entrenched barriers, those who are wanting to soar high with their eclectic, kaleidoscopic dreams – what is the message they are getting from the BJP top brass? That you might score an international medal, while coming from the mud and soil, and after a hard life of impossible toil, and that they can make the nation proud, but we care a damn when it comes to protecting one politician. You can very well go get damned!

That is how they have damned some of the finest young minds, with a history of brilliant scholarship, condemned with cooked up charges, while ritualistically patronizing all kinds of sleaze-balls. Umar Khalid, Gulfisha, Sharjeel, Khalid Saifi, among others. Their crime: they were peacefully protesting against the communal and anti-constitutional CAA! And they all happen to be young, bright, inspiring Muslim intellectuals.

Indeed, in a deeper sense, only a mediocre leadership such as this, bereft of any compassion or feeling, or knowledge system, would have a tendency to hate the young and the brilliant with such deep mistrust, especially those who choose dissent and challenge its ossified tyranny! In a deeper sense, there is something pathologically perverse in a system which chooses to penalize the finest in the land, young men and women, because they refuse to succumb to injustice!

Umar Khalid, among others, has been imprisoned for more than 1000 days now. Wrote Apeksha Priyadarshini, his friend and comrade, in a facebook post, after meeting him for the ninth time in Tihar Jail (April 28, 2023):

We spoke some more about life inside before it was time to go. I asked him how he was holding up and he said, “You know, I’m trying to be as rational and prepare myself for what lies ahead as much as is possible, but, sometimes, you can’t help but think about whether those who knew us, those who fought alongside us, are starting to forget that we are still inside…” While I did assure him that this wasn’t true before I left, as I stepped out and walked away, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was some truth to his words. Are we getting used to their unjust incarceration? Are we getting accustomed to the violence that Muslims are being subjected to on a daily basis in this country? Is it now part and parcel of our lives to forget about every instance of injustice with each changing news cycle? …May our skins never grow thick enough to not be haunted by these questions…

Umar and others might draw inspiration from Vinesh and Sakshi, and others, who braved the barricades on Sunday. They must have surely heard about the valiant struggle waged by our brave women wrestlers and their comrades. Despite the brutality inflicted on them, they know that the resistance to fascism often comes from unpredictable and unexpected quarters. History is not unilinear; it takes us all by surprise! Who would have otherwise known that Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia would emerge from nowhere, carve their name in history, and lead a resurrection for Indian democracy and women’s empowerment against a cold-blooded regime?

Surely, we cherish them and admire them and we want them to fly on the wings of freedom, success, victory. This is because, be it the footpath of Jantar Mantar, or, inside the walls of dingy, claustrophobic prisons, they have taken us, stoically and unafraid, to the edge of the zone of infinite possibilities; they have taught us precious and valuable lessons — optimism in despair, stoicism in suffering, the resilience of the imprisoned, and how to live and play, be joyful and dream, and fight on — come what may! Something dictators in self-love can’t even imagine in their wakefulness or insomnia.


Read More: lokmarg.com

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11 months ago

Great article. It is really encouraging that you have built up a connection between those in prison like Umar Khalid and the struggle by women wrestler on the issue against sexual abuse.
Indeed the success will be of these struggling young people.
I feel the new parliament that modi has conceived with taking the country 500 yrs back might become his grave when the masses will resurrect for revolution as happened in the case of Hitler. We should not lose hope.

Rakesh Agarwal
Rakesh Agarwal
11 months ago

This is the Darke hours of history in India, when a deeply narcissist megalomaniac is ruiling the country, flying on the winds of majoritaniasm &neo-loberalism.
Alas, the struggle of the country’s daughters won’t go waste, would teach them a lesson, they won’t forget!
Thanks to my old friend, Amit Sengupta, for writing this highly moving piece!

11 months ago

Great article .. Tears into our soul to think and hope that the young will face victory.. But those of us who are not young must stand by them and not leave the battle to them..

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