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Democracy stands in question as the wrestler’s protest escalates in India's Capital

The whole country was emerged in a different controversary midst the new Parliament building’s inauguration led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28 as a part of the government’s grand plan for British colonial era structures’ makeover. Meanwhile, a picture flooded the internet portraying Olympic wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat being detained by the police on a protest site. The picture brought in criticism and backlash against the government as it included various top wrestlers of the country being treated very crassly by the Delhi Police during their detention. 

The protest initially began on April 23, demanding the “immediate arrest” of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh who is also a member of the Parliament for 5 terms now with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and one time with the Samajwadi party in 2009.

The protest directed charges of sexual harassment against the 66-year-old who is accused of harassing seven female athletes, including a minor, over a decade. Singh, however, denied the allegations. He said that the laws made for protecting the women were being misused by the protesters. On Sunday, a month after the protest, the police cleared out all the tents and other items from the site at the Jantar Mantar. On Monday, the police said that no protest will be allowed at the location further.

The protest led by Rio-Olympic bronze medal winner, Malik, included other medalists like Bajrang Punia. While the wrestlers were marching towards the Indian Parliament on Sunday, they were detained and hauled away. Many have been charged with rioting and “causing an obstruction in the duty of a public servant with the use of assault and criminal force” by the Delhi police. A formal complaint has also been filed against several under multiple articles of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Ahead of detention, Malik said to the protesters, “On the one hand, parliament is being inaugurated, and on the other hand, democracy is being murdered. So this is absolutely intolerable,” Malik questioned the police’s action on detaining members of a peaceful protest. She further took to Twitter stating that it took seven days to file a charge against Singh but took less than seven hours to file a FIR against the people who were protesting peacefully. Her tweet read, “Is this country under a dictatorship? The whole world is watching how the government is treating its players.”

A two-time World Championship medalist, Phogat said that filing an FIR was never a part of the plan. She also said that they lacked support from the country’s sports fraternity. In an interview with the Indian Express, she said, “When women raise their voices, they are targeted first.” She added, “When we get medals, they get photos clicked to show they are proud of us but the reality is quite different. And for women, it’s even more difficult.”

Phogat further said to Al Jazeera that the charges made previously against Singh always disappeared and he never let the accusers compete again.

The fall-out is taking place whilst the time of preparations for the Asian games which will be taking place in Hangzhou, China in September of this year. Punia during an interaction with The Indian Express said, “Justice for ‘India’s daughters’ is more important than the Asian Games medal."

Singh who opted out of contesting for another term as a President of WFI on May 7 will be running for the Lok Sabha elections again in 2024. He has agreed to a narco test on live television on the condition that Phogat and Punia take it too. Malik responded in a press conference throwing a challenge at Singh to take the test stating that they were all willing to take a narco test too.

“Let the truth come out in the open, who is the culprit and who is not,” Malik said.

Escalating the intensity, on Tuesday the wrestlers said that they will throw their medals into the Ganga River in Haridwar to protest against police domination and the lack of justice they have faced. They will sit on a fast unto death at the India Gate in New Delhi.

Several other sportspersons including Indian Olympic Association President, P.T. Usha showed their support. Usha met with the protestors and assured them saying, “I am with you,”

Indian Olympic gold medalist javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra said that there had to be better ways to deal with the situation.

Some politicians have also called out the center. Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra along with Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda visited the venue and announced their support. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also visited the protestors and lashed out at BJP for protecting the WFI chief. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee also sent two of her party’s MPs to visit the site. Gandhi said that the Prime Minister had invited the girls over for tea when they had won the medals. He should speak to the girls now.

Additionally, Singh was also involved in the Babri Masjid demolition case. In 2020 he was made free of all charges of the case after a prolonged legal battle.

A recent congratulatory tweet by Malik for the Indian Premier League winning team Chennai Super King’s Captain Mahindra Singh Dhoni read, “We are happy that at least some sportspersons are getting respect and love they deserve,” draws attention to relevant disparities and hardships for many sports youth of India. Malik through her tweet said that she hopes justice as their fight is still on for it.


Image Source: The Siasat Daily

Editor: Nandini Roy

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Tags: #india #justice #sports #delhi #protest #parliament #delhipolice #newdelhi #wrestlersprotest #sportsman


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