Days after threatening to discard wrestlers hard-earned medals into the sacred Ganga River, a delegation of disgruntled wrestlers met with Union Home Minister Amit Shah at his official residence in the national capital late Saturday. Renowned Olympic medalists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, along with a group of coaches, engaged in a meeting that extended well beyond two hours, concluding late into the night. Despite inquiries from an Indian newspaper, Bajrang offered no substantial insights, expressing, “We had a meeting with the Home Minister. I am unable to provide further comments.” The secrecy surrounding the meeting has piqued curiosity, underscoring the significance of the wrestlers’ interaction with the Union Home Minister.
Wrestlers’ Concerns in Focus: Allegations Against Wrestling Federation Chief
Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat, celebrated achievers in international wrestling, have emerged as the prominent voices leading the protests against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Singh, who serves as the Chief of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and holds a position as a Member of Parliament from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), finds himself entangled in a grave controversy. He stands accused of sexual harassment by seven female wrestlers, including a minor.
The gravity of the accusations against Singh is reflected in the two First Information Reports (FIRs) registered against him by the Delhi Police on April 28. The FIRs reportedly detail instances where Singh allegedly demanded “sexual favors” in exchange for providing professional assistance. Additionally, the reports document numerous incidents of sexual harassment, molestation, and intimidation, including acts of stalking.
Image Source – The Mint
The Newspaper also revealed that one Olympic athlete, a Commonwealth gold medalist, an international referee, and a state-level coach corroborated the allegations by at least three female wrestlers. The police have recorded statements from 125 potential witnesses across four states, further bolstering the credibility of the allegations. The wrestlers’ meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah focused primarily on the status of the investigation into these serious allegations. They emphasized their demand for a prompt and comprehensive chargesheet to be filed against Singh. The Home Minister reportedly stressed the importance of following due process in the ongoing investigation.
Sports Minister Anurag Thakur had called upon the wrestlers to wholeheartedly support the investigation and allow the legal process to unfold. The previous high-level meeting between the protesting wrestlers and government representatives took place on May 27, just before the inauguration of the new Parliament. However, the talks failed to reach a satisfactory resolution, prompting the wrestlers and their supporters to proceed with their planned march to the new Parliament. Unfortunately, they were intercepted by the Delhi Police en route, resulting in clashes, detentions, and the filing of multiple charges, including rioting.
The treatment faced by the wrestlers drew widespread condemnation from international sports bodies and athletes within India. In response, the wrestlers initially decided to immerse their hard-earned medals in the holy waters of the Ganga River. They traveled to Haridwar but had a change of heart at the last moment after receiving a phone call from a prominent BJP leader and feeling pressure from their families. Naresh Tikait, President of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), who had also arrived in Haridwar, persuaded the wrestlers to postpone their decision by five days.
On June 2, after Singh was compelled to postpone his rally in Ayodhya, Tikait addressed a khap panchayat and stated that the government should be given “7 to 10 days” to take appropriate action against Singh. These developments highlight the intensity of the ongoing controversy surrounding the Wrestling Federation of India, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, and the allegations of sexual harassment lodged against him by several female wrestlers.
As the wrestlers await further action and a resolution to their grievances, it remains to be seen how the authorities will address this serious matter.