Wed 07 June 2023:
A group of international parliamentarians and academics have said the Union government’s reaction to the wrestlers’ protest against BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh “sends a clear message” that “rebellious women will be punished, the ruling class will be protected at all costs and dissent will not be tolerated”.
In the statement, they said that recent years have “mapped India’s democratic decline — with human rights activists world over raising the alarm about the shrinking space for protest, intimidation of the press, and incarceration of civil society leaders”.
They said the situation surrounding the protest is alarming, adding, “We, the undersigned – parliamentarians and academics – stand in solidarity with the protesting athletes and demand accountability from the Indian government.”
Read the full statement and the list of signatories below.
An alarming situation is unfolding in India.
The Indian government has unleashed violence upon Olympic wrestlers protesting to bring to account a powerful sports official they accuse of serial sexual harassment of women wrestlers.
Since April 23, 2023, women athletes have held a peaceful sit-in in the country’s capital New Delhi, demanding an inquiry into numerous complaints of sexual harassment against Member of Parliament Brij Bhushan Singh, a senior member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janta Party and erstwhile President of the Wrestling Federation of India. They have been met with deafening silence, intimidation, and eventually, brutal violence.
Recent years have mapped India’s democratic decline — with human rights activists world over raising the alarm about the shrinking space for protest, intimidation of the press, and incarceration of civil society leaders.
On 28 May, two pictures from the heart of India’s capital city captured this reality: Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a new hundred-million-dollar parliament building, widely considered a wasteful symbol of nationalistic fervour, calling it a “cradle of empowerment.” Just a few miles away, police forces dismantled the wrestlers’ protest camp, beat and dragged the athletes to detention.
All the while, reactionary forces have been organising to defeat the agitation. including spreading doctored images and misinformation to discredit the protestors, and planning to hold public rallies in support of the accused official. The authorities have been urging for “patience”, and the police registered a report only after the direct intervention of the Supreme Court of India. So far, in brazen violation of the law against sexual abuse of minors, no further action has been taken. MP Brij Bhushan Singh roams free, and has launched a campaign for the dilution of laws against child sexual abuse. But, those across the country supporting the wrestlers’ protest — farmers, students and feminists — continue to be harassed and arrested.
The government’s reaction sends a clear message: rebellious women will be punished, the ruling class will be protected at all costs and dissent will not be tolerated.
But the women athletes refuse to back down. They declared their intent to throw their medals into the Ganga river and go on a hunger strike unless the government took swift action. “These medals decorating our necks no longer mean anything,” they said in a statement.
We, the undersigned – parliamentarians and academics – stand in solidarity with the protesting athletes and demand accountability from the Indian government.
Silvia Federici, Co-founder of the International Feminist Collective; Professor (Italy)
Zarah Sultana, Member of Parliament (United Kingdom)
Mai Kivelä, Member of Parliament (Finland)
Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Former Minister of Women, Genders and Diversity (Argentina)
Annie Raja, General Secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women (India)
Julia Argentina Perié, Co-president of the Euro-Latin American (EuroLat) Women’s Forum (Argentina)
Anahí Durand, Former Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations (Peru)
Maite Mola, First vice-president of the Party of the European Left (Spain)
Karol Cariola, Member of the Chamber of Deputies (Chile)
Chantal Mouffe, Political theorist, (Belgium)
Veronica Gago, Professor, (Argentina)
Renata Avila, International Human Rights lawyer (Guatemala)
Franziska Stier, Party Secretary, BastA! (Switzerland)
Selay Ghaffar, Former Solidarity Party of Afghanistan (Afghanistan)
Inès Abdel Razek, International advocate (Palestine)
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