Lucknow: Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the BJP parliamentarian and chairman of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), accused of sexual harassment, will organise a ‘Jan Chetna Maha Rally’ in Ayodhya on June 5. Singh’s rally is seen as his attempt to consolidate the Hindu religious leaders’ support for him against the women wrestlers who have been protesting against him in New Delhi.
The BJP MP from the Kaiserganj seat of Uttar Pradesh, Singh, posted about the rally on his Facebook page on Thursday, May 18. Singh wrote on social media in Hindi, “Respected saints, request your presence in Ayodhya on June 5 for the Jan Chetna Maha Rally.”
Speculation is rife about the objectives of the rally. It is widely believed that Singh is perturbed as the protesting wrestlers are getting large support from opposition parties and civil society. Moreover, the support of the khaps in Haryana and also farmers’ outfits for the sportswomen had added to Singh’s woes.
Many feel that Singh intends to mobilise people with the help of the Hindu religious leaders before the axe falls on him. Opposition and civil society groups are persistently mounting pressure on the Narendra Modi government to arrest him and sack him from the post of WFI chairman.
Besides this, the Delhi Police also registered two FIRs against Singh in connection with the wrestlers’ allegations of sexual harassment. One of the cases deals with the alleged harassment of a minor. However, Singh has brushed off all the allegations against him.
In the past few days, protests have also grown against his home state of Uttar Pradesh. Of late, several women’s rights activists and writers have gathered in Lucknow at Shaheed Smarak to express solidarity with women wrestlers.
The All India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA), Mahila Federation, All India Progressive Women Association (AIPWA) and Sajhi Duniya were among the organisations that demanded the immediate arrest of Singh. They have also sent a memorandum to Droupadi Murmu, president of India, seeking justice for the women wrestlers.
During the protest, Madhu Grag, an AIDWA leader, lashed out at the BJP government and said “Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao” was merely an election slogan for the saffron party. “Our daughters (protesting women wrestlers) have been sitting on Dharna for more than 23 days, and the accused is roaming free and threatening them,” Garg said, while addressing the gathering of protestors on May 6.
Asha Mishra, the state president of the Mahila Federation, criticised the ruling BJP and said, “It is deplorable that the BJP sees criminals based on their religion and caste. We witnessed the same attitude of the BJP earlier on many occasions in the Hathras case, the Unnao rape case, and the Bilkis Bano case.” The Students Federation of India unit of Baba Bhimrao Ambedkar University also protested against the BJP MP at the university campus on Thursday.
But despite a lot of pressure, the BJP has not taken any major action against the WFI chairman. The party only showed the door to Singh and his aides from the sports body, the Olympic Association of India, which has announced fresh elections.
The BJP insiders disclosed anonymously that Singh has influenced several parliamentary seats in UP, including Bahraich, Gonda, and parts of Shravasti. The party’s top brass does not want to upset the influential leader ahead of the high-stakes 2024 general elections.
The Wire contacted Mahant Satyendra Das – the chief priest of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya – about Singh’s ‘Jan Chetna Maha Rally’. According to Das, he did not get any invitation to the rally. On being asked whether he would attend the rally if is formally invited, he said, “I will think about it once I get an invitation.”
When contacted, a representative of Singh’s office told The Wire, “The rally is being organised by Hindu religious leaders.” According to Singh’s office, the leaders want that if the allegations are true, action must be taken against the WFI chairman, and if the allegations are false and frivolous, the accuser should be indicted.
His representative went on to say that supporters of Singh from all over the country would come to attend the rally. When asked why Ayodhya was chosen, he replied that it would be convenient for seers to assemble there.