A day after the Delhi Police registered two FIRs against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the ongoing stir by wrestlers at Jantar Mantar received another shot in the arm with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra visiting the protest site to extend their support.
Both leaders, after their separate interactions with the wrestlers, accused the Narendra Modi government of protecting Mr. Singh, against whom women wrestlers have levelled allegations of sexual harassment.
“Why is this man being safeguarded by the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi?” said Mr. Kejriwal, pointing out that the wrestlers had to stage a sit-in and knock on the doors of the Supreme Court just to register an FIR. “The entire party has come together to safeguard one man. If anybody from the BJP is found doing any criminal activity, nothing will happen to them,” the Aam Aadmi Party national convener said.
Ms. Vadra also called for the WFI chief’s removal to ensure that he cannot “exert pressure” and “destroy” the careers of the wrestlers. “I want to ask why so much is being done to protect this man. What does it say about our country if we cannot save our girls,” she said.
As around 400-500 people gathered over the course of the day to stand in solidarity with the wrestlers, Ms. Vadra, accompanied by Rajya Sabha member from Haryana Deepender Hooda, went in the morning to interact with the wrestlers who have been protesting for a week now.
“I do not have any expectations from the Prime Minister, because if he had been concerned about these wrestlers, then he would have at least called them and spoken to them. He had called them for tea when they won medals. So call them, talk to them, they are our girls,” Ms. Vadra said in the presence of top wrestlers such as Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat.
Subsequently, addressing a press conference, Mr. Hooda and former Olympian and Rajasthan MLA Krishna Poonia expressed their disappointment with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief P.T. Usha, who had called the protest an act of indiscipline. “IOA chief is not a political post, but she did not stand with the players… she should introspect,” Mr. Hooda said.
Ms. Poonia, who is also the president of the Rajasthan State Sports Council, said, “I want to ask the BJP government if ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ was merely a slogan.”
Reaching the venue in the afternoon, Mr. Kejriwal lauded the wrestlers’ courage to stand up to those in power. “The sportspersons have brought laurels to our country, held the Tricolour aloft at national and international level while Jana Gana Mana was playing in the background... but they have been protesting for a week at Jantar Mantar because they were struggling to get an FIR registered,” he said, promising to help them in their fight for justice.
Amid rumours of his resigning and wrestlers accusing him of pressurising them to end protest and the Delhi Police of high-handedness, Mr. Singh finally spoke to the media saying it was orchestrated by a political-industrialist nexus.
Denying any plan to resign – a cosmetic move given the incumbent WFI board has been replaced by an ad hoc committee and Mr. Singh himself declaring he won’t contest the next elections – the strongman from Gonda said he is ready for “any kind of investigation”. “I’m not a criminal. Resigning means I have accepted their allegations,” the BJP MP from Kaiserganj told reporters at his residence in Bishnoharpur, Uttar Pradesh.