Hundreds of farmers and khap leaders thronged Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Sunday reminding the capital of the scenes of the 13-month-long farmers protest as a khap mahapanchayat was organised in support of the wrestlers protesting against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The protesters mainly gathered at the site from parts of Haryana, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh, wearing white and yellow turbans, and dhoti kurta, raised slogans against Mr. Singh and the BJP-led Central government accusing it of “trying to protect him”.
At a press conference, grappler Vinesh Phoga said that the protesting wrestlers would continue with their practice for competitions.
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“We haven’t quit the game. We will come up with a plan that we don’t miss even a single day of practice. We will take part in upcoming competitions,” she added.
Protesters Shabeena Begum, 30, from Bawana; Parvati Chauhan, 62, from Lakshmi Nagar, and Vidya Upreti, 50, from Shakarpur collectively said that if they did not support the women wrestlers today, nobody will stand with them if something similar ever happened to the women of their families.
“We don’t know one another, we have come from different places. But our cause is the same which is why we have been coming here since day one,” said Ms. Chauhan, adding that she was ready to hit the streets despite her poor health.
Ramesh Tomar, 28, from Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh, claimed that he quit his job to join the protest today. “Those in the power are intoxicated by it and cannot see the pain of daughters. This is why youth like me needs to raise its voice in support of wrestlers,” he told The Hindu.
A candlelight march was also taken out by wrestlers and protesters later in the evening at Jantar Mantar.
Heavy security arrangements
The mahapanchayat took place amid heavy security arrangements by the Delhi Police at Jantar Mantar with deployment of local police personnel and paramilitary, including Rapid Action Force (RAF) and CRPF, with adequate riot gear and multiple layer of barricading and security checks.
A senior police officer said that two companies of paramilitary force were deployed along with over 200 local police personnel at the protest site. Security was also beefed up in other parts of the city, including the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders.
Earlier in the morning, videos emerged on Twitter with farmer leaders claiming that several women volunteers of the BKU coming to join the protest were stopped at the Tikri Border.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Outer), however, refuted the claims and said that there was a misunderstanding which was cleared.
“Total 10 buses and four cars carrying around 500-550 people were allowed from Tikri Border in the morning. No one was stopped,” he said, adding, “These people had got down from the buses thinking that vehicles will not be allowed and were marching. They were explained that they could go upto Jantar Mantar in buses. They boarded the bus then and went for New Delhi.”