By Sunday afternoon protests had erupted all over the country. Sunday became a day of determined anger that manifest into spontaneous protests across Punjab and Haryana, Bengaluru and Bijapur, Karnataka. The anger was in response to the treatment meted out to the women wrestlers who were picked up from their protest site at Jantar Mantar in the National Capital, while others going for a women’s Mahapanchayat were also detained. At first farmers who joined the women wrestlers could not be controlled at the Delhi “borders”. The narrative started slipping from the hands of the state, the Modi 2.0 regime that wanted the farcical inauguration of the new Parliament to dominate news. Dominate it did as the supine electronic media continued on its journey to bow down to the powers that be, but powerful posts on social media and independent videos brought real news to the country.
The anger is against the effort to suppress a legitimate protest for justice and against shielding the alleged culprits Brij Bhushan Singh and Haryana minister Sandeep Singh. Both are from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and are facing serious charges of moral turpitude against them by the victims of sexual harassment’. The general sentiment reflects is that the treatment meted out to women wrestlers is more reprehensible, they were dragged disgracefully and the Tricolour they were holding was also dishonoured
As multiple pictures and videos circulated across the rural hinterland, the anger continued towards a boil, not only among the peasantry but among the others as well. “The most reprehensible part is that the entire effort of the regime is to save the accused and prove the complainants as wrong, as liars even. This has led to growing anger among the women. Do they think they can suppress the people by resorting to detentions that they did since Saturday at every village and town? No.
“The people understand that if this is what they do to our international champions one can imagine what they are capable of doing to any ordinary woman,” said Kavita Vidrohi who is an advocate and an activist with Jan Sangharsh Manch Haryana based in Kurukshetra. Her organisation along with Samatamulak Mahila Sangathan protested in Gohana city and burnt effigies of the Central Government and Delhi Police.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) which is an umbrella organisation of farmer organisations across the country has released a strong statement condemning the ‘authoritarian attack on the wrestlers’ as it called for the immediate release of all detained. “The cowardly BJP government led by Narendra Modi closed borders, arrested many activists and kept many under house-arrest from Saturday onwards to stall democratic protest on May 28, 2023 called by the women wrestlers supported by the SKM.
Read Sakshi Malik’s tweet
कभी सोचा नहीं था कुश्ती की रिंग में लड़ते लड़ते एक दिन इंसाफ़ के लिए ऐसे सड़कों पर भी लड़ना पड़ेगा…. देश की बेटियाँ बहुत मज़बूत हैं, जब विदेश में मेडल जीत सकती हैं तो अपने देश में इंसाफ़ की लड़ाई भी जीतके ही मानेंगी। #WrestlerProtest pic.twitter.com/eTHzERBUwb
— Sakshee Malikkh (@SakshiMalik) May 28, 2023
Punjab and Haryana protests spill over to states
This tweet retweeted by Vinesh Phogat says it all
वो क़हावत आज सिद्ध हो रही है!
‘मुँह में राम बग़ल में छुरी’
एक तरफ़ लोकतंत्र पर भाषण दिये जा रहे हैं और दूसरी तरफ़ लोकतंत्र की अस्मिता को गिद्ध सड़कों पर नोच रहे हैं…
— Shailendra Yadav (@shailendraydv12) May 28, 2023
The borders were closed to stop farmers and women from reaching Delhi. Ironically, coming on a day the Prime Minister inaugurated the new Parliament, the measures saw unprecedented use of force,” the SKM stated. The statement further pointed out, “The SKM is of the opinion that this exposes BJP’s anti-women, undemocratic character and how low they can stoop to protect people accused of sexual harassment. It shows the hollowness of the Prime Minister’s Beti Bachao slogan. “Thousands were coming in solidarity with the women wrestlers to attend the Mahila Samman Mahapanchayat. Repression was unleashed and thousands were arrested in Rohtak, Hisar, Bhiwani, Jind, Fatehabad, Sampla, Yamunanagar, Palwal, Gurgaon and other places. Women and farmers from Punjab were detained at Punjab-Haryana border near Narwana. “They blocked the national highway in protest. Hundreds were detained at Gurudwara Manji Sahib at Ambala City. Many farmers were detained near Singhu border and taken to police stations in Sonepat. Farmers marching to the Tikri border numbering about a thousand were detained. SKM leader Rakesh Tikait and over 2000 farmers reached Gazipur border where they were stopped. Farmers were even detained from railway stations and bus stands.” The SKM has called upon all democratic sections to rise up in protest and has warned that the struggle will be intensified and carried on till the sexual harassers are arrested and punished. Sources on the ground said that the people are also angry at a section of the media acting as police informers disclosing the movement of those intending to reach Delhi. All India Kisan Sabha leader Inderjit Singh told the media
“The people of the country will never take it lying down and will rebound with more vigour and determination soon. There is a strong undercurrent of resentment at the humiliation of women wrestlers and others at the hands of Delhi Darbar. This will not stop till the concerns of the protesting wrestlers are addressed in an amicable, humble and respectable way.” Observers feel that it has once again fallen on the peasantry from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh with active support from Punjab to take this battle forward. They say that the first thing is to rehabilitate the protesters at the protest site once again, and then draw up a strategy to take the movement forward.
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) which is one of the foremost farmer organisations in Punjab had organised a major women’s protest along with the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union on Sunday, May 28 in Mohali where the issue of the ongoing wrestlers’ protest was a key agenda along with the government using Enforcement Directorate to target top economist and women activist Dr Navsharan Kaur. There were thousands of women attending the event and just as the news of picking up and detentions in Delhi started pouring in they immediately passed resolutions on the spot in support of those detained.
The speakers at the event called for an end to the hounding of women democratic rights activists like Dr Navsharan and others. They also sought that the arrested pro-people intellectuals and democratic rights activists should be released immediately and a safe environment for women should be guaranteed in all institutions. They expressed their resentment over justice not being given to the women wrestlers and instead protecting the accused Brij Bhushan which they said is leading to the accused making defamatory comments against women wrestlers repeatedly.
Meanwhile, hundreds of farmers from Ludhiana, Barnala, Malerkotla and Moga districts had gathered at Gurudwara Tahliana Sahib in Raikot for a public meeting where the pending issues of the farmers that have not been fulfilled ever since the three contentious farm laws were withdrawn were raised. The issue of women wrestlers and the developments in Delhi also formed the core of the narrative along with the use of agencies to target Dr Navsharan and others. The speakers strongly condemned the barricading and arrests at the borders to prevent the people from joining the Mahila Panchayat called by the wrestlers in front of the Parliament. The speakers told the powers that be not to test the patience of the masses and said that just as the farmers had reached Delhi on November 26, 2020, they can also reach the capital again. Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Dakaunda) leader Manjit Singh Dhaner said that the more force the BJP government exerts the more people’s anger will increase and force the government to bow down. Observers on the ground also feel that the developments on Sunday are also going to have long term political ramifications. By late Sunday more than 1150 concerned citizens had come out calling for dismantling of ‘structures of sexual violence’ instead of protestors’ tents. “On the day the Prime Minister was inaugurating a new Parliament house, democratic space was being crushed outside,” the statement read.
SKM has called upon all democratic sections to rise up in protest. SKM warns the Narendra Modi led BJP Government that the struggle will be intensified and carried on till the sexual harassers are arrested and punished.
By afternoon, close to 1 p.m. news of police’s brutal man and woman handling of wrestlers had flown across the country and from Bengaluru where erstwhile sportswomen protested to Bijapur where social activists protested detention of senior women activists like Subhashini Ali, Annie Raja and Jagmati Sangwan, Indian citizens and civil society were not quiet.
Protest successful in Bengaluru with Reeth Abraham (Arjuna Award Winner, Athlete), Nisha Millet (Swimmer, Arjuna Award Winner), Sharda Urgha (Cricket Sports Writer) among 150 others attending.
Teesta Setalvad’s tweet
Protest successful in Bengaluru! Reeth Abraham (Arjuna Award Winner, Athlete), Nisha Millet (Swimmer, Arjuna Award Winner), Sharda Urgha (Cricker Sports Writer) #JailForCitizens #NewParliamentBuilding #WrestlerProtest #WrestlersProtests https://t.co/2lJkBQNeJP pic.twitter.com/3nQhlgODUd
— Teesta Setalvad (@TeestaSetalvad) May 28, 2023