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The Wrestler Protest – Is there any substance to it?

Niranjan Bhombe

Madhvi Ojha

5 June 2023

"When did it start?
In January 2023, the protesters, Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat,...."

.....Bajrang Punia and others, staged a sit-in at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to make the sexual harassment charges against Brij Bhushan Singh, the President of Wrestling Federation of India and a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh public.

Wrestlers wrote a complaint letter to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha, demanding Brij Bhusan’s resignation, formation of an inquiry committee, dissolution of WFI, and appointing a new committee to run WFI in consultation with the wrestlers. 

The protests were called off in January 2023 when the Central government promised to appoint a commission to investigate the allegations.

The then Sports Minister, Anurag Thakur formed an oversight committee and announced that the matter will be investigated and the report will be given within 4+2 weeks. Mary Kom was the head of the committee. The committee also included Yogeshwar Dutt, Trupti Murgunde, Rajesh Rajagopalan, and Radhika Sreeman.

Protesting wrestlers expressed disappointment on Twitter for not being consulted before the formation of the Oversight Committee by the government, despite assurances given to them. The Sports Ministry added Babita Phogat to the Oversight Committee, a week after wrestlers’ complaints.

The report was submitted in the first week of April, after talking to all the victim wrestlers and taking their statements, but the allegations against Brij Bhusan could not be proved


Some of the allegations were:

It was alleged that Brij Bhusan touched Vinesh inappropriately in 2015 at Turkey, but it was found that she didn't go to Turkey in 2015, and later in 2018 in a live interview she said publicly that in her entire life she never faced any sexual harassment.

She said that Brij Bhusan had put hand on her shoulders when he was clicking photo, but she could not provide any photo.

It was alleged by Sakshi that Brij Bhusan hugged her in 2015 and when she felt uncomfortable, he said he hugged her as father. But there are a lot of pictures available on internet where she could be seen completely comfortable with him.

There are similar kind of other allegations which could not be proved. Also, the question arises where were the wrestlers all these years and why are they demanding arrest of Brij Bhusan after 9 years?


Protest resumed in April:

Then again, Indian wrestlers resumed their protest at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on April 23, three months after the allegations were first made public. The protesting wrestlers had levelled an array of accusations against Singh and the federation, including money embezzlement, mental and sexual abuse, threats of death, and sexual exploitation.

A notice was issued by the Supreme Court to the Delhi Police following a petition filed by wrestlers.

On 24th April, Wrestlers moved the Supreme Court seeking registration of FIR against Singh.

The matter then went to the Supreme Court, and also on April 28, the Delhi Police informed Supreme Court that an FIR against Singh has been registered. A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha also directed the Delhi Police Commissioner to assess any perceived threat to the complainants.

But then, the Wrestlers said they will continue their protest until they see Brij Bhusan behind bars.


Incidents that followed after the protest was resumed……….

Khap Panchayats and protesting wrestlers jointly issued a 10-day ultimatum to the Central government, demanding immediate action against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The wrestlers led the protest while receiving support from the around 250 khaps from Haryana, Rajasthan, and western Uttar Pradesh, along with hundreds of farmers’ unions.

Then, politicians made a beeline to the protest venue for their political benefits. Self-styled activists appeared at the protest venue and raised various slogans against PM Modi, RSS, and BJP in the name of supporting the wrestlers who are protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. ‘Modi Teri Kabar Khudegi’ slogans were raised, along with ‘Azadi’ slogans. It is notable that similar slogans were raised by protestors in many protests in the past. Anti-CAA protests, Shaheen Bagh protests, farmers’ protests, and various other protests in JNU are known for these Azadi slogans. Now, these sloganeers have also joined the wrestlers’ protests.

Ex- RJD leader Pappu Yadav who allegedly misbehaved air hostess and threatened to hit her with chappals, was seen supporting the wrestlers where he threatened CM Yogi Adityanath.

The head of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), PT Usha, visited Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. She arrived at the protest site. According to Bajrang Punia, she stated that she was supporting the wrestlers and is going to seek justice on their behalf. She also added that she is an athlete first. She promised to look into the matter and resolve it immediately. However, she left without speaking to the media gathered at the protest site, she was heckled by the protesting gang.

Salman Abbasi – one of the Muslims, supporting the wrestlers said that “there is unrest in the minds of Muslims in India.” He said that the whole Muslim community is against the government in this protest and supports the wrestlers. He said that “Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao is just a slogan for BJP. They do not save girls and they do not educate girls.”

Then, Jamaat-e-Islami linked Indian American Muslim Council posted a video on Twitter to empathise with the protesting wrestler. The first caption added to the 2.41-second video IAMC posted read, “From assaulting protesting students at Jamia Millia Islamia University to detaining and harassing top wrestlers of the country, here’s how Modi suppressed dissent in India.”

Controversies do not seem to end with the protests by wrestlers at Jantar Mantar in Delhi and things got more clear when Wrestler Bajrang Punia’s wife, Sangeeta Phogat, shared an instagram story which had derogatory comment on PM Modi, it has also showed about the casteism and showing Jaat politics of Haryana,


What are the demands?

It seems that even the wrestlers are not clear of their demand as they keep changing it time to time.

Initially, in January, the wrestlers said they wanted a neutral investigation following which an oversight Committee was formed to probe the charges against Brij Bhushan.

Later in April, the wrestlers demanded that an FIR be lodged against Brij Bhushan saying that they won't leave Jantar Mantar till a complaint is filed. They also added that they don't trust the Delhi Police.

After the registration of the FIRs, the wrestlers came up with a fresh demand saying that they want Brij Bhushan arrested without an investigation or without any proof against him and they want him to be removed from every post that he holds, including that of an MP.

They added that they want him to be punished for all cases pending against him, and only then they will leave.

Vinesh Phogat was heard telling a journalist that they had thought that people would believe them because they are such big players but they are being asked to give proof of their allegations and claimed supremacy of the Khap Panchayat over institutions like the Supreme Court.

She also demanded that protesting wrestlers will not play nationals, they want direct entry in Olympics.


Security personnel detain protesting wrestlers

The protesting wrestlers were trying to march towards the new Parliament from their site of protest at Jantar Mantar on the same day when the inauguration was taking place. They were then stopped and detained by the security personnel in Delhi. They were trying to march towards the new Parliament as they wanted to hold a women’s Maha Panchayat in front of the new Parliament.

Dependra Pathak, Special CP (Law & Order), Delhi Police:

“They broke the barricades and did not follow the directions given by police. They broke the law, hence they were detained”

The wrestlers were charged under Sections 147, 149,186, 188, 332 and 353 of Indian Penal Code.


Delhi Police’s sources on 31st May, 2023:

Delhi Police sources said that till now no supportive evidence has been found to arrest the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Singh, in connection with the allegations levelled by wrestlers against him.


“Within 15 days we will be filing our report in the court. It could be in the form of a charge sheet or final report,” Delhi police sources said. Delhi police sources further said that there is no supportive evidence to prove the wrestlers’ claim. 

“Neither he is influencing the witness nor he is destroying the evidence,” they added.

On 2nd June, Rakesh Tikait, the ‘farmer’ leader stated, “If we aren't allowed to sit at Jantar Mantar on June 9 then there will be an announcement of Andolan. We will not compromise on anything less than the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. If this does not happen, we will go to Jantar Mantar on June 9 and hold panchayats across the nation. Cases against wrestlers should be withdrawn and the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh must happen”



There is a cardinal principle in law, “innocent until proven guilty”

FIR has already been lodged against Brij Bhusan and matter is already with Supreme Court. Investigation is going on. The police already said they have found no evidence still they are investigating further.

In this case, how should a law abiding citizen behave? Wait for the report or judgement, or come out to street to do protest and demand arrest of a person without any evidence?

This is what the accused, Brij Bhusan has to say,

Brij Bhusan: “I am once again saying that if even if a single allegation is proved against me, I will hang myself"

"I am ready to get my narco test, polygraph test or lie detector done but my condition is that along with me Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia should also undergo these tests. If both the wrestlers are ready to get their test done, then call the press and announce and I promise them that I am also ready for this."

This article is not meant to defend Brij Bhusan, if he is found guilty, then he should definitely be punished, and if the wrestler’s allegations are true, then they deserve to get justice.

But, a law abiding true citizen of Bharat should wait and trust the decision of Supreme Court rather than demanding the arrest of someone by protesting and relying on Khap Panchayat over Supreme Court.

Satyamev Jayate!

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