Wrestlers in India who have won acclaim across Indian and international platforms have been protesting at Jantar Mantar, Delhi from 5th April. The protests started when allegations of sexual harassment against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament (MP) Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh went public in January 2023, after which the government had promised the wrestlers that an unbiased independent committee would probe the sexual harassment allegations. However, the police refused to file a case against the MP until the Supreme Court ordered it to. Charges against him also include relevant sections of the POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012) which is aimed at protecting children against sexual offenses. The offenses are cognizable and non-bailable. Despite the grave nature of the offenses and the fact it is essential to arrest such an influential person to ensure that he does not use his influence to impede the investigation, the police have not arrested the MP which is reflective of how the discretionary powers of the police are being used in an arbitrary manner. The severity of the allegations has not led to any action against the M.P by the ruling party primarily because of the authority wielded by Brij Bhushan. This article tries to analyze how the semi-feudal nature of India is the reason for this oppression.
Brahmanical Wrestling Federation of India
A local BJP party member from Gonda district, the area from which Brij Bhushan hails, mentioned that Brij Bhushan doesn’t need a party symbol as it is the political parties that need Brij Bhushan more than Brij Bhushan needs them. He is a local landlord in that area who wields considerable power. The M.P has stood against the policies of B.J.P several times and the party never took action against him. He is a history sheeter who was allegedly part of the local liquor mafia and had faced Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (T.A.D.A) charges for co-operating with drug mafia Dawood Ibrahim. He himself claims that he has committed a murder in the past. An individual who is a gangster is elected several times as the representative of the people because he is a Bahubali (strongman) in that constituency. He has allegedly murdered and attempted to murder the political opponents in the area. It is clear that the political power that Brij Bhushan holds is undemocratic and feudal, since his position as a landlord is the reason behind this authority.
In an interview with the Indian Express, Brij Bhushan has said that the wrestlers are strong boys and girls which is why there is a need for someone strong to control them. He runs the matches in a tyrannical manner, asking the referees to function according to his demands, and even punishing the judges when he deems fit. He monitors the entire event and even if he is physically unable to be present, he installs a camera and surveills the event.
The Dronacharya awardee Mahavir Phogat has claimed that he not only controls the diet of the wrestlers but also takes half of the sponsorship money that the wrestlers gain, a sort of feudal tax that the wrestlers have to pay because of the barbaric authority that he holds. The Brahmanical practice of the wrestlers bowing down and touching his feat is encouraged by him. Videos of him slapping an athlete during the Ranchi tournament in 2022 went viral online. An individual cannot wield this kind of power in a democratic organization. This blatantly undemocratic authority wielded by Brij Bhushan emerges from again due to his feudal status. Therefore, one can clearly see that the feudalism extends to W.F.I too.
The oppression faced by the female athletes is grave. At least four incidents of sexual assault were reported in the private residence of Brij Bhushan, which in feudal fashion, also serves as the office of W.F.I. The survivors of this harassment initially did not lodge any complaints since they feared the power that Brij Bhushan held. Rape culture is an intrinsic part of feudalism.
Patriarchy and Feudalism
Feudal patriarchy is the root of gender oppression in this country. According to Marx, “the mode of production of material life conditions the social, political, and intellectual life processes in general.” In India, the mode of production being semi-feudal, semi-colonial has led to the conditioning of our society in such a way that the semi-feudal structure will influence all aspects of life, and this even includes institutions that administer sports. The organisation of W.F.I is in such a way that the administration was done in a very Brahmanical manner, and this stems from the relations of production. The influence that Brij Bhushan holds over W.F.I is solely due to his status as a landlord. Moreover, the feudal authority that individuals like Brij Bhushan have will continue in a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country. If not Brij Bhushan, then some other individual will wield the same authority. Therefore, to fight against the current establishment and change the relations of production is a necessity to end patriarchal oppression.
Women across caste and class lines face the same form of Brahminical oppression but in the case of the peasantry and proletariat this oppression is much greater. Along with the oppression they have to face exploitation too. The Brahminical belief that the body of the oppressed caste women is the property of the dominant caste man has led to such instances. In the Hathras rape case, we saw how the state machinery actively supported the perpetrators of the crime. The government machinery even burned the body of the women to ensure that the individuals who have perpetrated the crime are not punished. The exploitation that the women from these sections have to face is primarily by the men from the landlord class, but like all women, the domestic sphere becomes oppressive too for the women from peasantry and working class. They have to face oppression from the male members from their households too.
Unlike the women from the petty bourgeoisie and landlord class, the women from the peasantry have organized themselves under the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat against the Brahminical patriarchal oppression that they face. This can be seen in Andhra Pradesh when the women organised themselves for the prohibition of alcohol, which has been the root cause of the patriarchal oppression that they face in the domestic sphere. Similarly, women have blocked roads to protests against rape by the state machinery in central India. The women from the petty bourgeois and feudal classes have never organised themselves to such an extent against feudal patriarchy. In India, there has never been a lot of mass movements which included women from these sections.
We have all heard about the Nirbhaya rape case, the Priyanka rape case in Hyderabad and now sexual harrasment against the wrestlers, but rape of women from working class, Dalit and Adivasi backgrounds is commonplace in India society. Priyanka Reddy became a headline across India and even the so-called national media covered the issue. Even the ‘justice’ that was meted out has been brahminical in nature. Instead of going through its usual process of court trials, the police rounded up Dalit, Muslim working class men who were not even related to the case to mete out the ‘vengeance’ of upper caste petty bourgeoisie sections. Meanwhile, incidents like the Hathras rape case are brutally suppressed in media, with people’s journalists like Siddiqui Kappan being charged with the draconian UA(P)A law as a measure to ensure he didn’t report on the Hathras rape case, an incident of rape against a peasant Dalit girl by upper caste men.
Violence against women becomes headlines only when its perpetrated against someone who is from a bourgeois, dominant caste background. Even when violence against working class, Dalit and Adivasi women becomes a popular issue due to the work of various activists, the brahmanical Indian judiciary collectively fails women numerous times. The perpetrators of Hathras rape case were recently acquitted. The 26 men who, in their fascist frenzy, gang raped Muslim women during the 2002 Gujarat riots were recently acquitted of the crime. They were garlanded by cheering fascist mobs upon their release. To hammer the point home regarding the feudal nature of the Supreme Court, in 2021, the Chief Justice of India asked a rapist, “will you marry her? If you want to marry her we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail. You seduced the girl, raped her.”
None of these incidents of rape should be looked at in isolation. The mass rape of Adivasi Kondh tribe women by the special “anti-Maoist” GreyHound unit of the Indian police as part of the fascistic Operation Green Hunt and Operation SAMADHAN-Prahar must not be detached from the on-going struggle of athletes against brahmanical patriarchy. The state machinery, which the Indian media too serves, ensures this detachment and an isolated outlook towards violence against women. It only leads to the state machinery protecting the brahminical ‘honour’ of the upper caste women. It is patently clear that the oppression of women cannot be addressed within this current semi-feudal system. The liberation of women from patriarchal violence needs unity of ALL women under the leadership of the proletariat, against this rotten, feudal, imperial and fascistic system.
by Mukundan, student of law, Jindal Global Law School
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