Strength is nothing if not tempered with both sense and sensitivity

The BJP brand's unapologetic attitude makes it popular

An Instagram post I read recently made the totally on-point observation that in Mera Bharat Mahaan if a man molests a woman in a public space, everybody quickly averts their gaze and doesn’t want to get involved, but if a couple is kissing consensually on the road, the whole world will pause to pass comments, moral-policing aunties will click photos, busybodies will tag the couple’s parents on Facebook, and cops will drop down from helicopters to arrest them for indecency.

This happens because lovers are usually decent, peace-loving folk, while molesters are obnoxious, quarrelsome, sometimes powerful, and almost always violent.

And this is why most people of India, including our reigning cricketing legends and our prime minister, are busy acting as if our female wrestlers, who have dedicated their young lives to bringing glory to India, have not been agitating since January against the Wrestling Federation of India president whom they allege is a serial molestor—feeling up their firm young breasts and bellies with impunity, making all sorts of coarse insinuations, and threatening them with loss of favour if they don’t fall in line.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

This (alleged) molester is definitely quarrelsome, powerful and violent. A self-styled ‘Shaktishali’ and ‘Bahubali’ type badboy, he rejoices in the dubious glamour of being a principal accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, and has had 38 cases against him, including murder. He has been caught on video slapping a wrestler, and confessing to at least one murder. Naturally this makes him hopelessly sexy to the UP electorate and he has been an MLA six times over.

See, the indomitable BJP brand has become the indomitable BJP brand by never backing down. Unlike the Congress, they are unapologetically out and proud (sharing a stage with one of the 11 gang-rapists of Bilkis Bano, and backing Ajay Mishra Teni all the way when his son had his spot of trouble back in 2021). This unapologetic attitude makes them muscular, popular and spectacular.

They also have absolutely no issues disdaining Indians who have been feted globally; they have done it to Nobel prize winners and God knows how many others. They can happily extend the same courtesy to Olympic and world championship medallists, too.

Looked at from the common man’s point-of-view, this attitude is actually admirable—almost patriotic! Like don’t tell us who or what to revere, we can figure that out ourselves, thank you very much. It is part of the reason why voters flock to the BJP—they seem so non-thirsty for global validation, it is kinda cool.

The issue, this time, though, is that the wrestlers are kinda cool, too. These are no abla naaris, or ‘helpless females’. They are disciplined, world-class athletes, trained to aim for faster, higher, stronger—and most importantly, together. They are the ones we point out to our daughters, saying, ‘Look baby girl, here are your role models for strength, gumption and discipline’.

Basically, they are not about to back down.

Brijbhushan Sharan Singh has gone on record saying, about the wrestlers, “These are all strong men and women. To control them, you need someone stronger. Is there anyone stronger here than me?” But strength is nothing if not tempered with both sense and sensitivity. The BJP would be well advised, in this particular instance, to listen to the wrestlers and investigate this issue thoroughly. The situation, if well handled, could bear rich dividends, both in medals (already, in Singh’s absence, more and more girls are showing up to the under 15 and under 20 trials) and at the hustings both at the Centre and in the states.