he obduracy of the government not to act immediately against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan, accused of committing sexual crimes, casts serious doubts on its fairness and probity in public life. As if to rub salt into injuries the government keeps mouthing the age old platitude that ‘law will take its own course’ which, most people in India know, never does. Law needs to be implemented honestly and with all sincerity. It obviously has no life of its own.
The meeting with the Union Home Minister Amit Shah after over a month-long protest by the country’s top wrestlers late at night on June 4 produced no tangible result except the same old inane promise of the law taking its own course to mete out justice. FIRs have been filed against Brij Bhushan on the basis of complaints lodged by women wrestlers, including a child. Complaint has also been lodged under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Vinesh Phogat, one of India’s top wrestlers, who is currently taking part in the wrestlers’ agitation, said when she had complained about Bhusan to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2021, the latter assured her he would look into it. But, nothing has happened since then and Bhushan was even allowed to attend the inauguration of the new Parliament building recently. This makes a mockery of the rule of law and the Prime Minister’s own pet programme “Beti bachao” (save daughters). It does seem like a situation has been deliberately created in the country where the nation’s daughters need to be saved from politically powerful predators.
It is the agitating women wrestlers who have questioned the sincerity of the government campaign of saving the country’s daughters as some of them are awaiting justice for the greatest insult that can be heaped upon a woman. The irony of the criminal justice system in the country is that if a common man is accused of any crime, the wheels of criminal law are immediately set into motion. But, the same process of law screeches to a grinding halt if the accused has connections with the higher-ups or is an influential politician. This tends to get reconfirmed in the case of Brij Bhushan.
It has been over 10 years since the enactment of the POCSO Act 2012. This Act and the amendments to criminal law are expressions of the legislature’s intent to safeguard women and children from sexual offences. The Crime in India 2021 report shows that 89,200 cases were registered in the country under Section 354 of the IPC and 16,401 cases under Sections 8 and 10 of the POCSO Act. But, the numbers do not necessarily reflect whether justice is done. The question is whether the cases booked are properly investigated and criminals brought to book. Ground reality does not inspire any degree of confidence as convictions are extremely low.
The government’s indifference to the pain, humiliation and helplessness of the women wrestlers has caused widespread concern, both in and out of the country. Notwithstanding protests and condemnation by world sports bodies, the government continues to turn a deaf ear to the clamour for arrest of the accused. The inescapable conclusion is that it is trying to shield the accused because he belongs to the ruling party and is a Member of Parliament. Even though an accused cannot be held guilty till investigation is completed, justice demands at least the accused, who is the current WFI president, should have been asked to step down from his post for the sake of fair probe. This is the norm and must be practised everywhere, including in the current Bahanaga Bazar rail mishap if it is to be investigated without pressure or bias. But, the impression that has been created by the government’s inaction and the silence of the BJP leadership in both the cases makes people feel that there is every chance that justice may be denied.
This has apparently encouraged Brij Bhusan that he is emboldened enough to announce he would address a party rally at Katra in his constituency in UP on June 11 as part of the BJP’s ‘Mahasampark Abhiyan’ (mass outreach campaign) to mark completion of nine years of the Narendra Modi government. Earlier, he cancelled his “jan chetna maharally” (mass awareness campaign) in Ayodhya on June 5 citing a police probe into the wrestlers’ allegations and “respect for Supreme Court directions”.
It clearly shows the BJP is backing the accused WFI chief.
For, otherwise it would not have allowed him to be associated with the party programme. This itself gives a loud and clear message to the investigating agencies how they should conduct the probe against him. The entire episode puts the government of India in a poor light for the brazen disregard for fairness and justice.