Wrestlers’ protest: Sullen silence at Jantar Mantar day after scuffle

- May 29, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

A rare sight of Jantar Mantar without protestors a few hours after section 144 was imposed and protesting wrestlers and supporters were detained and taken to police stations on Sunday

Police officals remove banners and arrangements of the wrestlers' protest at Jantar Mantar,

An unusual calm descended at the Jantar Mantar protest area a day after India’s top wrestlers were detained and packed up in police vans before removing their belongings, including mattresses and coolers, from the site where Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Sangeeta Phogat were staging a sit-in.

The Delhi police later imposed section 144 to thwart further attempts to resume a gathering.

Visuals of the champion wrestlers being manhandled and whisked away by security personnel brought public and political condemnation for the Delhi Police, who were criticised for cracking down on the athletes.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also hit out at the city police for their “condemnable” behaviour towards the country’s sportspersons, in a tweet in Hindi.

Apart from the lockdown during Covid, Jantar Mantar has never been empty in over three decades of its existence as a venue for protest.

The wrestlers were released within 10 hours of detention. Sakshi had been taken to Burari, Vinesh and Sangeeta were taken to Kalkaji while Punia was kept in the Mayur Vihar police station, according to sources.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police has insisted that it will not allow wrestlers and their supporters to protest at the site again. Sakshi, however, had promised that they will resume protest upon release.

The Delhi police said that the protesting wrestlers, who have been protesting at Jantar Mantar demanding immediate action against Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Charan Singh over sexual assault allegations, were detained for “breaching the security cordon” while trying to move towards the new Parliament building for a planned women’s ‘Mahapanchayat’.

Soon after their detention, the protest site was cleared and the police will reportedly not permit them to continue their protest at the Jantar Mantar site.

Ironically, both Bajrang and Vinesh were detained just metres away from Brij Bhushan’s official residence at 21, Ashoka Road.

The champion wrestlers had resumed their agitation against former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on April 23, demanding his arrest for alleged sexual harassment of several women grapplers, including a minor.

A teary-eyed Vinesh, who showed maximum resistance, later said from a bus that they are being punished for demanding justice.

“The accused is roaming free, he is being given shelter by the government and we athletes who won medals for the country are now being put in jail for demanding justice for country’s daughters,” she said.

Here is a walk-through of the quiet protest site at Jantar Mantar after Sunday’s development: