Wrestlers refuse to budge

- May 8, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

India’s Olympic and world championship medal-winning grapplers have returned to the protest site, Jantar Mantar, and demand action against Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh

SISTERS-IN-ARMS: Vinesh Phogat (left) and Sangeeta Phogat, who is also Bajrang Punia’s wife, protesting at the Jantar Mantar

India’s top wrestlers, Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, as well as world and Asian Games champion Vinesh Phogat returned to Jantar Mantar for protest against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Charan Singh after four months.

The wrestlers, who launched a protest in January, demand the implementation of POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012) against Singh for alleged sexual harassment of female wrestlers have refused to move from the venue.

The protest began on April 23 after wrestlers were fed up with inaction against Singh, who has denied allegations and refused to budge.

Punia, in an exclusive interview with Patriot last week, said, “I feel somewhere the police authorities are under pressure and the Oversight Committee [formed by the Sports Ministry after January protests to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against WFI president] is also under pressure. The Sports Ministry will be able to tell you about this better.”

Vinesh, on Tuesday (May 2), alleged that the Delhi Police is going easy on Singh and not filing the complaints of women wrestlers.

“Delhi Police is not cooperating. It is still not registering the statements of the girls. They are giving excuses. Sometimes they are saying that an officer has fallen ill. It is trying its best to delay the case as much as possible so that they can silence the girls with money, power and influence,” alleged the wrestler who addressed the conference along with Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia.

Political leaders from opposition also dropped in to provide support to the wrestlers. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi (both on April 29), ex-cricketer and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and farmers’ leader Rakesh Tikait (on May 2) paid visit and provided support.

The wrestlers appear in no mood to back down.

OLYMPIC CLASS: Sakshi Malik (in white T-shirt with colourful patches) and Bajrang Punia (in green T-shirt) have won Olympic medals
KHAP’S ROLE: WWE participant Kavita Devi also checked in and demanded that the village khaps (community organisation) should take care of the girls against sexual exploitation
FIRM BACKING: Farmers’ leader Rakesh Tikait dropped in on May 2 with fellow farmers to back the wrestlers
DEMANDS: A banner showing the demands of the wrestlers
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal meets Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and others during the seventh day dharna protest on April 29 (Getty Images)
WOMAN POWER: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi came to the protest site on April 29 to back the protesters
MEDIA GANG: Media has been continuously stationed at the Jantar Mantar relaying the happenings during the protest