Wrestlers back on dharna to demand justice

Vinayak Padmadeo

New Delhi, April 23

Having failed to get ‘justice’ following their sexual harassment complaint against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, top wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat have returned to Jantar Mantar here to begin the second round of their dharna.

Three months after their first protest at Jantar Mantar, accusing Singh of sexually harassing female wrestlers, they have come back with a bigger grouse. They complain that the Sports Ministry has not acted upon a report by the Oversight Committee, which was formed in January to investigate the charges made against Singh. They are also upset that despite a complaint filed at the Connaught Place police station on Friday, with seven female wrestlers including a minor alleging that the WFI president sexually abused them, the Delhi Police is yet to lodge an FIR.

“We have filed a complaint in CP police station and they are yet to lodge an FIR,” Sakshi, a bronze-medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said. “Seven girls including a minor girl have complained… Action should be taken under POCSO Act but nothing has happened so far. We want an FIR to be lodged soon and the accused be punished.”

“It is two-and-a-half months (since the first protest) and we are still waiting for the Oversight Committee report,” she added. “We do not know what is in the report as it has not been revealed. That is why we are back.”

The wrestlers were planning to stay at the dharna site overnight.

Singh had ‘stepped aside’ from his role as WFI president in January, but the wrestlers say that things are back to the normal in the federation.

Bajrang said they had no option other than to restart the protest. “Federation is holding Nationals again. Their office is running again, so it is very clear no one is listening to us,” he said. “It also means we all lied, right? Now we have filed a complaint and if an FIR is lodged, everything will come out clear — whether we lied or not.”

“The first time we came here, we were asked why we did not lodge an FIR. Now there is a complaint and still there is no action. We will not go from here until the time he (Singh) is arrested,” Bajrang, a four-time World Championships medallist and Tokyo Olympics bronze-winner, said.

They blamed the Sports Ministry for not taking a decision on a report by a seven-member committee, headed by boxing legend Mary Kom, that had been filed in March.

“We have been trying to contact them for three months. Neither the committee members nor the Sports Ministry officials have given us any answers. They are not taking our calls,” Vinesh said. “Most of the persons in the Oversight Committee are politically connected and have given favours to someone. We cannot say a lot of things openly, but we are yet to get justice, she added.

Lower count

Compared to the last dharna, which saw a large number of wrestlers on the three days it lasted, only five prominent wrestlers were on dharna today. Apart from Bajrang, Sakshi and Vinesh, the prominent wrestlers present at Jantar Mantar were Bajrang’s wife Sangeeta Phogat, Satywart Kadian and Sombir. Anshu Malik, Sonam Malik, Sarita Mor, Deepak Punia and Ravi Dahiya stayed away.

Sakshi and Vinesh said some of the girls who made the accusations against Singh are young and should not be forced to risk their careers. “You cannot leave wrestling for so long,” Vinesh said. “We are showing patience but we are all desperate to get back to training and competition. We are seniors so we are ready to suffer the consequences, but we do not want them (youngsters) to risk their careers.”

“Some are coming forward while others are not, not but we all are together,” Sakshi added.

‘Police harassing wrestlers, journalists’

New Delhi: The wrestlers have alleged that the Delhi Police are using underhand tactics to disrupt their protest, saying that the police are stopping those who are carrying food and water for them. Vinesh Phogat said that the police are also misbehaving with the media persons. “I went to take medicines and I was stopped by a female DCP who misbehaved with me. They have just manhandled a media person,” Vinesh said. “If they think we will go because of what they are doing, they are mistaken. We go three-four days without food for competition. The country should also see what we are doing, we will die here but not leave this place,” she added. A police sub-inspector first grabbed the collar of a sports reporter before throwing him on the chair. Another reporter trying to enter the dharna site was carried away by police personnel. Meanwhile, the Delhi Commission for Women issued a notice to the Delhi Police for failing to lodge an FIR into the wrestlers’ complaint. The Commission has asked the Delhi Police to explain the reasons for the delay in the registration of the FIR. tns

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *