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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 25 & 26 , June 17 & June 24, 2023

The Indispensability of Brij Bhushan Singh | Faraz Ahmad

Saturday 17 June 2023, by Faraz Ahmad


The cat is finally out of the bag. The months’ long supposed investigations by Amit Shah and Narendra Modi governed Delhi Police has finally come out with a report running into thousands of pages, which has made all the effort to let off the hook Wrestlers’ Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, better known as a toughy of Eastern UP and a six time member of the Lok Sabha on the strength of his muscle power.

We will soon have a Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) probe inform us that the Balasore train crash of June 2, involving three trains simultaneously, was in no way the fault of shoddy manner of running Indian Railways by the Modi government but an act of sabotage by some Muslim jihadi. Never mind, that successive reports of experts and even the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had highlighted how railway safety measures were given a go by for introducing new faster trains like Vande Bharat on the already clogged rail tracks and ignoring the necessary safety measures like effective and working signals, proper emergency brakes and most of all recruitment of manpower to man the Railways. And why would it be, when the Modi government even abolished the traditional Railway autonomy through a separate rail budget an annual feature all through pre-Modi era.

Returning first to the most crucial issue of sexual harassment of women wrestlers, the Delhi Police has acquitted Singh of the most heinous offence of sexual assault on a minor, a serious crime under the Prevention of Child from Sexual Offences (POCSO), Act despite the child having voluntarily made a statement before a magistrate in Delhi not once but twice. Still after that her father was made to withdraw the allegations of sexual assault against her. After more than a month of sitting on a dharna at Jantar Mantar and after the internationally renowned and honoured wrestlers had been forcibly evicted on May 28 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the much-publicised new Parliament building, whose raison d‘etre is still a bit obscure, and Brij Bhushan Singh, a MP from UP sat proudly in that Parliament, the Delhi Police made Jantar Mantar out of bounds for them, the news came that the minor girl had withdrawn her allegations.

Later her father denied the news. But the closure of the POCSO case by the Delhi Police clearly proved that the initial report was true. However, who took her to the magistrate to make the retraction and when and under what circumstances, remains a mystery to date. It can easily be inferred as Olympian medallist Sakshi Malik stated, this was done under pressure. With the Delhi Police visibly acting partisan from the very beginning, initially refusing to register a First Information Report (FIR) till the Supreme Court coaxed it. Even after that it took a long time for the Police to start the probe in right earnest. And what kind of a probe was this? This is the first time I recall in a case of sexual harassment, that the Police took the victim/s (not the minor likely) to Brij Bhushan house and in his presence tried to recreate the alleged assault. Before that they had presumably pressured, the minor to retract her statement.

Does the police action inspire confidence in the minds of the victims? Sakshi Malik told a newspaper that had Singh been arrested and put behind bars after the minor recorded her statement before a magistrate, as is provided in such cases under the POCSO Act, the minor would not have withdrawn her statement. Soon after the minor girl and her father recorded their retraction before a magistrate senior advocate Rebecca John reacted by saying, “I am not surprised. The calculated delay in such cases puts the complainant through pressure. These kinds of struggles are long and painful. When women come out in such cases, they put their lives and careers at stake.” The purpose of this Government is served. Instead of enthusing and inspiring the victims, this report apparently only disheartened and demoralised the poor victims.

According to legal experts the crime highlighted by the victims demanded an immediate arrest of the alleged perpetrator. But such is the clout of this BJP muscle man that Narendra Modi and his government turned a deaf ear to the cries and pleadings of the victims. Even the Supreme Court while eventually directing the Delhi Police to register their FIR, forbade them to return to the apex court for any further relief. But the moot question is why is Modi so keen on protecting this bully, whose various criminal acts have even sent him to jail and who has stated on video shooting down his political rival and got away with it.

There is only one explanation, to my mind, why Modi/Shah/Yogi cannot afford to act against this education mafia don. He controls a vast territory through the network of his colleges, hospitals and schools where thousands are at his beck and call, so close to Varanasi. His influence extends to and beyond Varanasi. He might be useful to Modi to garner votes in the coming 2024 general elections. But that means Modi is apprehending some loss of popularity which may require an extra muscle to ensure a convincing victory in Varanasi and around. Noted columnist Neerja Chowdhry, no bleeding heart socialist, reported in her latest column that the BJP’s tried and tested formula of communal polarisation, through Hijab, Jihad, gau Raksha seemed to be giving diminishing returns, not just in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka but even elsewhere in northern India, except perhaps Uttar Pradesh so far. If that is true of good part of the cow land, then UP can hardly remain insulated. And in this situation, Muslim baiting may not suffice to get good returns in UP either in the 2024 general elections.

Amit Shah and Yogi have made tall claims of winning all the 80 Lok Sabha seats from UP in the next general elections. But even though there is still no visible unity in the Opposition ranks, the western UP rural Jat land is no more a pocket burrough of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). With western UP Jat already disenchanted with Modi over the farm laws and how Modi has reneged on his promises. Most of the victims of Brij Bhushan Singh being Jat girls and boys from Haryana, Jats of Haryana and western UP are up in arms. The Tikait brethren once with the BJP, have been working on consolidating Hindu-Muslim unity and with the ready assistance of Chaudhry Charan Singh’s grandson and Ajit Singh’s son Jayant Chaudhry the BJP may not be as successful in western Uttar Pradesh this time as it was in 2014 and 2019. So, the BJP has to consolidate its vote base in Eastern UP and Awadh region and Brij Bhushan becomes indispensable for the BJP as the general elections approach.

Post Karnataka defeat Modi and his party are obviously showing signs of nervousness. It will be foolish to predict so soon a victory for the Opposition. But nobody can deny that Rahul Gandhi has stirred the placid waters in the Opposition ranks. And the BJP has started taking him seriously. Earlier they poked fun at him. Post his Bharat Jodo Yatra, they show signs of uneasiness at Rahul’s initiative. The latest being Modi’s lobbying to go and address the US Congress, apparently to neutralise Rahul’s successful interactions with the Indian diaspora, a pet constituency of the BJP fully consolidated behind Modi not so long ago.

So what’s the connection with the Balasore Railway mishap? There are two. The Railway mishap has made the media sit up and probe how the Modi era has shown downsizing of Indian Railways. How first Modi chose a former employee of corporate sector Ashwini Vaishnav, selling Railway engines to the Railways to head the Railway ministry, ignoring obvious clash of interest. How despite tall claims by minister Vaishnav of security appliance called Kavach, it was missing in this Superfast Coromandel Express that caused the accident. How the money earmarked for the safety and security of the Railways like signalling and automatic brakes was either not spent at all or at best spent on such unrelated items like feet masseurs, crockery, cutlery and other such stuff for the comfort of VIPs travelling in special coaches.

It proved noted politico-economic critic Parakala Prabhakar right that independent India has not seen a more incompetent Prime Minister in all its 75 years than our dear current CEO. All this then has to be covered and what better way than to whip up communal frenzy once more. And how do you do this—by blaming it on sabotage by some Jihadi Muslim. Once the CBI catches some bearded topi walla, and the Godi media whips its typical communal frenzy, who will remember train mishap or the plight of poor women wrestlers. That will be relegated, to a few paras on the inside pages, if at all But if you are incompetent and handle sensitive issues like the traditional rivalry between the hill Kuki and other tribals of Manipur hills and the mainland Meiti Hindu residents of Imphal, What is happening in Manipur is an outcome of acting for small immediate gains without bothering about the long term consequences.

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