Nearly five months. That is how long it took for a minister of the government of India to finally take note of the protests by women wrestlers and meet them, many of them Olympians and national-level champions, against alleged sexual harassment by the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The women wrestlers have accused the 66-year-old Singh, of groping, touching the breasts and navels without consent and demanding sexual favours from women wrestlers during his ongoing stint as the boss of the federation.
The wrestlers, who were supported by many of their male peers in the sport (but also conspicuously not supported by many Indian sportspersons, including women athletes such as the sprint champion P.T. Usha) took to the streets with their protests, assembling at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for the first time in January this year. After they were assured that a committee formed by the government would look into it, the protests were called off. But in April, after the committee submitted its report, the protestors felt it was biased and favoured the accused and they resumed the protests.
The protests soon turned political with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ostensibly supporting the accused who, incidentally, is a member of the party and an MP with considerable clout, facing off against most of the leading opposition parties. Police tried to forcibly remove the protestors from the venue of the protests and in the skirmishes many leading athletes were subjected to violence.
Singh has all along denied the charges and a police FIR filed by his accusers has till now basically led nowhere. Last week, after nearly five months since the accusations were made, a government minister finally met the protestors and assured them that a swift probe would be undertaken. On that assurance, the wrestlers have called off their protests for now.
The thing is India’s attitude towards sexual harassment is very primitive. During the years that the #MeToo movement gathered momentum throughout the world, and charges against leading personalities in entertainment, media, politics, and many other fields led to either their downfall or prosecution, or both, in India also there were a spurt of allegations against noted celebrities, politicians, editors, and others. Almost all of those who were then accused of sexual harassment have remained unscathed. Many of them are back in business and continue to hog the media limelight quite shamelessly. If Brij Bhushan Singh, a grandfather accused of groping young athletes, goes scot free, do not be surprised.
Will Nitish be the one to bell the cat?
Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar, is an astute politician. He is also wily and opportunistic. He has never been averse to switching sides to suit his political ambitions. Those who have followed his moves have seen him ally with the BJP when it suits him; and then ditch that alliance when it doesn’t. Like many powerful regional leaders, Kumar, 72, has long harboured ambitions of becoming the prime minister of India. Now, he his putting together his plans to try and achieve those dreams.
A few weeks back, Kumar proposed a joint opposition strategy to challenge the BJP at the Centre in next year’s parliamentary elections. The idea was to have a convenor (read: Nitish Kumar, of course) who would rally the leaders of the main opposition parties to join hands and form a coalition that would together field one strong candidate, irrespective of which constituent of the coalition he or she represented, against the BJP candidate in each parliamentary constituency. So, in each constituency that had a BJP candidate contesting, the coalition would choose one candidate who was best suited to defeat the BJP contender.
Some opposition leaders seem to be buying into the idea. Later this month, at a meeting convened by Kumar in Patna, several opposition leaders are scheduled to meet. According to reports, those who have confirmed include Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Delhi.
India’s national level politics is littered with the remains of unsuccessful coalition governments: they usually start with promise but end with acrimonious bickering, which is, as you might have already guessed, all over power, position, and pelf. It would be interesting to see whether Kumar’s proposal, which would require parties to swallow their pride and support their rivals in each parliamentary constituency, does actually take off.
The hoopla over the Miss World contest is so anachronistic
Newspapers in India have been gushing about India’s chance to host the Miss World finals once again after 27 years. Miss World is one of the oldest international beauty pageants, created in the United Kingdom by Eric Morley in 1951 Since Morley’s death in 2000, his widow, Julia Morley, co-chairs the pageant. The pageant has grown into one of the world’s biggest and has raised more than £1 billion for children’s charities that help disabled and underprivileged children.
But, the competition, open to women from all over the world who are between the ages of 16 and 27, is said to be one where contestants are judged on their beauty, talent and intelligence, in reality it is a regressive objectification of women.
If India took the lead to initiate, say, a competition that was gender neutral and judged young contestants on the basis of their personalities and intelligence regardless of their gender then that could have been a more thought-provoking headline rather than the swooning excitement that media have been exuding about this year’s Miss World contest, which will once again judge women as objects.
Russia-Ukraine war continues…
The Nova Kakhovka dam on Ukraine’s Dnieper river collapsed on Tuesday, flooding villages, endangering crops and threatening drinking water supplies as both sides in the war scrambled to evacuate residents and blamed each other for the destruction. Ukraine accused Russia of blowing up the dam, which is in an area that Russia has been controlling since the early days of the ongoing war. Russia has, however, denied the accusations and blamed Ukraine for bombing the area.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has ratcheted up its counter-offensive against Russia to recapture territory that it has lost. The attacks have been small thus far but a larger offensive is expected soon.
14-year-old to work at Elon Musk’s Space-X
And now for some good news… A 14-year-old boy has been hired as a software engineer by Elon Musk’s Space-X, the satellite communications and spacecraft manufacturer. Quazi, who is set to graduate from the Santa Clara University School of Engineering this month, is the youngest hire by Space-X. He has demonstrated exceptional verbal skills from a young age and has an extraordinary aptitude for learning. Kairan has IQ certifications from Davidson Institute Young Scholar, Mensa, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and others.