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Top wrestlers agree to suspend protest till June 15 on government's request


Published on: June 7, 2023 | Updated on: June 7, 2023

Wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia speak with the media during their protest against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. (File Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The protesting wrestlers on Wednesday agreed to suspend their agitation after the Central government’s assurance that the Delhi police will complete its probe into alleged sexual harassment and molestation against outgoing Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh by June 15.

"We were told that police investigation will be complete by June 15. Till then, we have been asked to wait and suspend the protest," said wrestler Sakshi Malik after a meeting with Union I&B and sports minister Anurag Thakur. The meeting, which lasted for about six hours, was also attended by Malik’s husband Satyawart Kadiyan and wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Jitender Kinha. Double world medallist Vinesh Phogat, a prominent face of the protest against the WFI chief, skipped the meeting.

Both Malik and Punia asserted that their agitation was not yet over and they had suspended their protest only till June 15 as requested by the government. The crucial meeting was called by Thakur to break the deadlock. The government has also agreed to withdraw all 109 FIRs filed against the wrestlers for violation of law and order on May 28 when they marched towards the new Parliament building without permission for a "Mahila Samman Mahapachayat".

After the marathon meeting, Thakur said a chargesheet in the case into the allegations of sexual harassment against the outgoing WFI chief will be filed by June 15. He also pledged that the elections to the WFI will be held by June 30.
Noting that the government has accepted every demand of the wrestlers, he said the WFI will also set up an internal complaints committee, to be headed by a woman.

Thakur said the wrestlers also demanded the withdrawal of cases against various academies and sportspersons as well as not allowing Singh and his associates to participate in the election process.

"All these issues were agreed by consensus," the minister said. Asked about the wrestlers’ demand for Singh’s arrest, Thakur said the investigation into the case will be completed and a chargesheet will be filed by June 15.

This was the second meeting between the Centre and the protesting wrestlers in a span of five days. Concerned over reports of the BJP’s image taking a hit in Haryana over the wrestlers’ protest, Thakur had tweeted well past Tuesday midnight stating that the government was "willing to have a discussion with the wrestlers on their issues".  The statement came four days after Union home minister Amit Shah met a delegation of the protesting wrestlers at his official residence in the capital.

On Wednesday, a  khap mahapanchayat held in Haryana's
Balali village also demanded the arrest of Singh. Balali in Charkhi Dadri is the native village of wrestlers Vinesh and Sangeeta Phogat, who are now at the forefront of the agitation in the national capital.

At the "Sarv Samaj Khap Mahapanchayat", suggestions given by the representatives of several khaps were deliberated on, following which a 21-member committee was formed. The committee demanded the arrest of  Singh, the exclusion of politicians from sports federations and directed all khaps to be ready for a struggle in support of the wrestlers.

The mahapanchayat, which lasted for over five hours, also demanded the arrest of Haryana minister and BJP leader Sandeep Singh, who was booked by the police for allegedly sexually harassing a woman coach.

The Congress on the other hand, accused the government of trying to "suppress the voices" of the female wrestlers who have levelled sexual harassment allegations against Mr Singh, and said it will have to pay a heavy price for trying to "protect" the BJP MP as the nation was watching.

While the talks between the  wrestlers and Thakur were going on, Congress spokesperson Deepender Hooda said his party will stand by the protesters over whatever they decide after the talks. He said the government should be "ashamed" of itself about how it handled this matter in trying to "curb the voices of these daughters".

Hooda said: "What kind of example are they setting that if it is a BJP MP, no arrest will be made. This example will be quoted by various police departments to shield powerful criminals. That is the (prevailing) legal environment which the government has vitiated to save one accused in this matter."