Wrestlers welcome FIR but demand Brij Bhushan’s arrest, insist protest will continue till then

Thanking sportspersons for their support on social media, the wrestlers request them to also get down on the ground and give voice to those unable to come out in other sports as well.

April 28, 2023 07:37 pm | Updated April 29, 2023 08:02 am IST - NEW DELHI

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Shakshi Malik addressing a press conference during their protest against the Wrestling Federation of India chief Brijbhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday, April 28, 2023.

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Shakshi Malik addressing a press conference during their protest against the Wrestling Federation of India chief Brijbhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday, April 28, 2023. | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The Delhi Police’s submission on Friday assuring registration of an FIR against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh did little to satisfy the protesting wrestlers who insist they will continue till the former WFI chief is arrested even as the matter continued to drag into the sixth day with no sign of letting up.

Also Read | Wrestlers vs WFI sexual harassment row from Jantar Mantar to the Supreme Court, the story so far

“We thank the Supreme Court for its directions, this is the first step towards victory for us but it does not mark the end of our protest. We will continue to sit here and, talk to our elders and then decide the way ahead,” Sakshi Malik categorically said.

The former Wrestling Federation of India president has been accused of sexual harassment with seven women wrestlers including a minor filing a petition. “We do not trust Delhi Police. It has taken us six days sitting here for them to just agree to filing an FIR,” Vinesh Phogat, one of the main faces of the protest, said.

“They can still water down the charges and file a loose (sic) FIR so we will wait and watch what happens, what sections are included by the police. Our demand was to ensure he was out of the system and we will continue to ask for it.

“I also appeal to the PM on moral grounds to remove him from all posts, whether WFI or as MP because unless that happens, there will not be a fair investigation. We only trust the SC for justice,” she added.

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Sangeeta Phogat during their protest against the Wrestling Federation of India Chief Brijbhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday, April 28, 2023.

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Sangeeta Phogat during their protest against the Wrestling Federation of India Chief Brijbhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday, April 28, 2023. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Thanking sportspersons for their support on social media, the wrestlers requested them to also get down on the ground and give voice to those unable to come out in other sports as well.

“This fight is not for FIR or elections but to ensure punishment to such a person. We don’t want the efforts of all those international and Olympic medallists to go in vain. The complaints we have submitted should have been enough to at least file an FIR. We have already given evidence to earlier committees but now we will only go before the SC,” Vinesh said.

The spate of political supporters continued to arrive at the protest site cutting across all parties and organisations including khaps and farmer organisations.

Bajrang Punia explained that with Singh’s criminal record, an FIR was no big deal. “He is the president of the federation and the highest authority. If he does something like this, where will an athlete go to appeal? You can see the list of cases against him, how does one more FIR make any difference? Our protest will continue till he goes to jail,” he declared.

Asked about SC directing Delhi Police to do threat assessment and provide security, Bajrang welcomed the decision. “We all need security — those who have complained and those who are sitting on protest here. He (Singh) is running out of options and can get anything done to save himself. But that doesn’t scare us into giving up, we will stay put here,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Anurag Thakur, the Union Minister for I&B and Youth Affairs & Sports, reacting to the developments at the Y20 India Summit in Leh, said, “I met all the wrestlers last time also, along with the sports secretary, for several hours over two days. It was only after talking to them that a fact-finding committee and an oversight committee was formed, with mostly women members, where everyone was given an opportunity to present their case.

“The recommendations of the oversight committee included fair elections, for which the IOA has already constituted an ad-hoc committee which will conduct elections within the next 45 days and also form selection, organisation and internal complaints committees. We are taking all steps as per the process.

“As far as FIR is considered, that could have been registered at any police station even before, there was no need to protest for that.”

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