The focus of these yatras will be to make people aware about the history of the temple movement and inform them about the progress of Ram temple construction.
Support for the demands raised by India’s medal-winning wrestlers has been increasing steadily. The repressive actions taken by the police against the wrestlers and their supporters have increased support for their movement as people were very unhappy to see respected women wrestlers who brought glory to the country in international sports events being treated in a highly undignified manner. Some highly irresponsible statements, made by persons seen to be close to the establishment, on social media added fuel to the fire.
A simple question that is being increasingly asked by unbiased people is why has action been so slow against a man who already faces many serious charges? Why has such a person with so many cases against him occupied such a powerful and influential sports post for such a long time? Is his special position of strength related to his being a leading politician from a crucial region of eastern UP, where he is considered a bahubali or political strongman, and a man who enjoys a close rapport with influential Ayodhya leaders? While support for the women wrestlers has poured in from far and wide, most crucial has been the support from the caste and khap panchayats of western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana as well as from the rural areas of Punjab and the farmers’ movement of Punjab-Haryana-western UP.
This combination had only recently fought a prolonged battle successfully for revoking three laws which the movement considered to be against the interests of the farmers. Then as well as now, the movement had struck an emotional chord with people. In fact, this time the emotional bonding is likely to be stronger as the issue relates to protecting the safety and dignity of women. What is more, these concerns are voiced by young women who have emerged as role models for aspirational girls.
While this aspiration is happily accepted by the government and goes well with some of its popular campaigns, there have been apprehensions that when women emerge in non-traditional areas such as highly competitive sports, their safety is not assured. Such evidence has come to the fore from many arenas of women’s sport and in particular from wrestling.
Medal-winning women wrestlers like Vinesh Phogat (who won gold medals in Commonwealth and Asian games and Sakshi Malik (who won an Olympic medal against heavy odds) have won widespread praise from people as well as top leaders of the country for their impressive contributions made possible with immense dedication, and after overcoming hurdles placed by tradition-bound rural society.
Now they are getting similar support from people for taking up the important issue of safety and dignity of sportswomen, helped by male colleagues like Bajrang Punia. While their demands are widely perceived to have ample justification, they could have avoided the acceleration of the movement on the day the new parliament was being inaugurated, as it led to an intense confrontation with authorities.
Similarly, they should continue to be persuaded by khap leaders to withdraw the decision of submerging their hard-won medals in the Ganges. The wrestlers have been careful to keep their struggles peaceful even in the face of provocation, and should stick carefully to this path. On its part, the government should move quickly to find a solution.
The khap elders are normally not in favour of prolonging a confrontation with the government. If the government too is eager to find a solution, it should be possible to reach an amicable settlement. The longer this issue is allowed to drag on — it has already been allowed to drag on since the start of the year — the greater will be the complications. Hence while a justice-based resolution is needed primarily because the demands raised are justified, such an early resolution is needed also because of larger national interests. While there may be forces which want a prolonged confrontation, this is not in our national interest.
The khap elders may be social conservatives but they have been emerging out of their narrow confines to increasingly support education and a wider role for girls, and no one should ever doubt that they are patriotic people who want the good of the country. No one should stand on false prestige, certainly not the government which must be motivated by the need to protect public interest. This should be followed by wider steps to protect the safety and dignity of women in all sports and not just wrestling. Early resolution of the issues will also help wrestlers to get back to their training with renewed encouragement.
(The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include A day in 2071 and Man over Machine.)