A month-long protest led by a group of wrestlers against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, over sexual harassment allegations, continues to gain momentum at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. As their ultimatum to arrest Singh expires, the wrestlers have hinted at a significant decision to be announced today, following discussions at a khap mahapanchayat (a village council) in Haryana’s Rohtak district.
The wrestlers, including renowned athletes Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, and Bajrang Punia, have been steadfast in their demand for action against Singh. They have set May 21 as the deadline for their next course of action. The mahapanchayat, expected to be attended by community leaders and farmer organizations, will play a crucial role in shaping the path ahead for the protesting wrestlers.
Expressing concern, Vinesh Phogat, an Asian Games gold medalist, emphasized that the decision made by the elders at the mahapanchayat could have far-reaching consequences, possibly detrimental to the nation. Speaking at a press conference held at Jantar Mantar, Phogat stated, “The decision our elders take (on Sunday) could be a big one, one that might not be in the interest of the country. It could hurt the nation.”
In a bid to seek support for their cause, the wrestlers attempted to attend an IPL game at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Saturday. However, they claim to have been denied entry by the Delhi police, despite having valid tickets and no protest signs or banners. Bajrang Punia expressed his disappointment, saying, “We want Dhoni to support us in this battle for justice. No active cricketer has spoken up yet.” The wrestlers wore t-shirts with the slogan ‘I Support Wrestlers’ printed on them, aiming to raise awareness about their protest.
The Delhi Police, on the other hand, refuted the wrestlers’ claims, asserting that no wrestler with a valid ticket was barred from entering the stadium. A senior official clarified that 10-12 wrestlers had arrived to watch the match, and only those without tickets were turned away.
As the protest reaches the one-month mark on Tuesday, the wrestlers have planned a candlelight march to India Gate to further highlight their grievances. Previously, they organized a three-day sit-in at Jantar Mantar, demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and the filing of a First Information Report (FIR) in the matter. Following their plea, the Supreme Court directed the Delhi police, leading to the registration of two FIRs against Singh. He is accused of sexually harassing seven female wrestlers, including a minor.
The police have already questioned Singh twice as part of the ongoing investigation. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) has also been established to probe the allegations further. The next court hearing is scheduled for May 27, providing a legal platform to address the accusations and seek justice for the victims.
In a separate incident, a sexual harassment complaint was lodged against Mrinal Basumatary, the in-charge and swimming coach of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Training Centre in Solalgaon, Guwahati. The complaint, filed due to the gravity of the matter and the involvement of minor girls, underscores the need for stringent actions to safeguard athletes’ well-being.
The wrestling community’s protest against the alleged sexual harassment and their demand for justice underscores the importance of addressing such issues in sports organizations. The outcome of the khap mahapanchayat’s