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Wrestlers Protest News: Centre invites protesting wrestlers for talks on charges against WFI chief

Days after they met home minister, Amit Shah, the Centre has invited wrestlers protesting against Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for talks on their issues, sports minister Anurag Thakur said in a late-night tweet.

“The government is willing to have a discussion with the wrestlers on their issues. I have once again invited the wrestlers for the same,” he said in his tweet on Wednesday.

On Saturday, the wrestlers met Shah. Talking to the news agency ANI, Sakshi Malik had said, “We met home minister Amit Shah, it was a normal conversation. We have only one demand, and that is to arrest him (Brij Bhushan Singh).”

Following this on Monday, a media report arrived stating that Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, who have been leading the protest, have resumed their duties in the Railways. When asked if they had withdrawn from the protest, Malik said that the protest would continue and nobody was withdrawing.

“We will continue our fight for justice and meanwhile I am fulfilling my responsibility in Railways,” she said.

Arrests on May 28 and the aftermath

Punia, Malik and Phogat have been protesting since the beginning of this year in order to press for the removal and arrest of the WFI chief over allegations of sexual harassment.

On May 28, wrestlers had planned a march and protest in front of the new Parliament, despite the imposition of Section 144 in the area. They were detained on their way by the Delhi police, and an FIR was filed against them under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 147, 149, 186, 188, 332, 353, Section 3 of the PDPP Act. The Delhi Police also cleared the protest site.

Following their removal from Jantar Mantar, Wrestlers arrived in Haridwar to immerse their medals in the Ganga. However, they later issue a five-day ultimatum to the Centre to act against the WFI chief following the intervention of farmer leader Naresh Tikait.

The Delhi Police have registered ten complaints and two FIRs against WFI chief Brij Bhusan Singh.

The first FIR relates to allegations by a minor and has been registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, while the second FIR is related to outraging modesty.

However, The WFI chief has said that he will “hang himself” if even one accusation against him is true.

“I will hang myself even if one allegation against me turns out to be true. I stand by my statement..,” said Brij Bhushan to the media in Gonda after the FIRs.

Widespread support for wrestlers

Several bodies and political parties have extended their support to the protesting wrestlers. United World Wrestling (UWW) condemned the detention of wrestlers during their march to the new Parliament building. It has demanded action against the WFI chief.

“UWW firmly condemns the treatment and detention of the wrestlers. It expresses its disappointment over the lack of results of the investigations so far. UWW urges the relevant authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations,” the world wrestling body said in a statement.

“For several months, United World Wrestling has followed with great concern the situation in India where wrestlers are protesting over allegations of abuse and harassment by the President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). It has taken due note that the WFI President has been put aside at an early stage and is currently not in charge,” it added.

Political parties like the Indian National Congress, Trinamool Congress and even the home minister of Haryana, a state ruled by a BJP-led coalition, have demanded a fair investigation of the matter.

Khap mahapanchayat for wrestlers

On June 2, a mahapanchayat was organised in Kurukshetra, Haryana. Leaders of several farmer outfits attended it. They threatened to step up the agitation for the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and bring the protesting wrestlers again to Delhi’s Jantar Mantar if the government didn’t act within a week.

Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait invoked the 2020-21 farmers’ protest that forced the Centre to repeal three laws and said farmers would take these children to Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on June 9.

The Delhi Police had earlier said the wrestlers would not be allowed again to protest at Jantar Mantar after the confrontation during the march to the new Parliament building.

Earlier, farmers outfits had also held a khap mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh.

The BKU leader also announced a big panchayat at Shamli in Uttar Pradesh on June 11 if Singh is not arrested and more meetings from June 15 to 18 in Haridwar.

“If nothing happens even then, panchayats will continue across the country,” he said.

Hours before the khap mahapanchayat, sports minister Thakur said everyone wants justice for the wrestlers, but only after the due process of law.

On June 4, at an event in Sonipat, Punia said that the wrestlers would organise a khap mahapanchayat of their own soon.

“We will hold one Mahapanchayat and will give a call for that. We will decide on the venue. We want to bring everyone together for that Panchayat, we don’t want us to be divided,” he said.

He said their battle was not for any particular caste but for honour and respect. “If we remain divided, we cannot win.”

Reports have also claimed that the charges of POCSO have been withdrawn from the FIRs, but the wrestlers have given no such confirmation.

(With agency inputs)

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