Back in January this year, acclaimed Indian wrestlers including Olympic medalists Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik alleged that several female wrestlers have been sexually harassed by coaches at national camps. The wrestlers accused Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of mishandling and sexually harassing them.
Since then, wrestlers Sakshi, Vinesh, and Bajrang Punia along with others have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi against the federation and demanding the arrest of Singh.
However, the protests were called off soon after the government promised to investigate the allegations.
Coaches are harassing women, and some coaches who are favourite of the federation misbehave with women coaches as well. They sexually harass girls. The WFI president has sexually harassed so many girls: Wrestler Vinesh Phogat pic.twitter.com/AqUetaXsGa
— ANI (@ANI) January 18, 2023
Then on April 23, the wrestlers resumed protests claiming that nothing has been done to resolve their issues.
Recently, things took an ugly turn when the Delhi police got into a scuffle with the protesting wrestlers and their supporters at Jantar Mantar during the late hours of Wednesday. According to a report by The Indian Express, the wrestlers were bringing in cots to the protest site to sleep at night. That’s when the cops intervened and allegedly used manpower to stop them from doing so without permission.
Scuffle breaks out between Delhi Police and the wrestlers at Delhi's Jantar Mantar. Wrestlers claim they were abused and assaulted by the police officials. #WrestlersProtest pic.twitter.com/b2cqCbbz3n
— The Quint (@TheQuint) May 3, 2023
The wrestlers alleged that they were manhandled, abused, and misbehaved by drunk policemen and in that tussle, two wrestlers, Rahul Yadav and Dushyant Phogat, were injured.
Sharing their side of the story the cops said that the wrestlers were at fault and alleged that the protesters got aggressive and manhandled the police, hurting five police personnel including two women officers. They also denied the allegations that an officer was drunk.
Every one of us should feel mortified by what’s happening with our #Wrestlers at #JantarMantar Senior journalists like @sakshijoshii mistreated. Shameful n extremely upsetting. Only hope is #SupremeCourt 🙏🏻#IStandwithchampions #WrestlersProtest @Phogat_Vinesh @BajrangPunia pic.twitter.com/xWgb00oX0d
— Urmila Matondkar (@UrmilaMatondkar) May 4, 2023
Senior police officers said that section 144 was imposed after the scuffle, and everyone was allowed to meet the protesters on Thursday. After the incident, the wrestlers were furious about the way they were treated by the Delhi police. They also hinted at returning their awards, including the Padma Shri, to the government.
#Watch | #Delhi: If this is how the wrestlers will be treated, what will we do with the medals? Rather we will live a normal life & return all the medals & awards to the Indian Government: #Wrestler #BajrangPunia at Jantar Mantar #WrestlersProtest pic.twitter.com/oRt9vGhJtj
— The Times Of India (@timesofindia) May 4, 2023
Now, Dronacharya awardee wrestler and father of the Phogat sisters, Mahavir Phogat has joined the protesters in Jantar Mantar and has threatened to return all his medals and awards if justice is not delivered, reported NDTV.
Will return my medals if justice not delivered: #MahavirPhogat
— TOI Sports (@toisports) May 5, 2023
He said, “I will return my medals if justice is not delivered in the case. The kind of allegations he faces, action should be taken against him and he should be arrested,” the senior Olympics coach and politician said adding that there has been no talk with the government so far.
Many young wrestlers have now joined the protesting wrestlers.
Morning image: Day 6 of wrestlers protest: many young wrestlers from across India also joining. If this isn’t a wake up call to end feudal neta-babu run sports system in this country, nothing ever will be. Not easy for athletes to stand up to Bahubalis: when they do, we must all… pic.twitter.com/pZKxuN0xVa
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) April 28, 2023
Students from all across delhi called for a protest in our solidarity. They were manhandled and detained by the police. The female students were threatened and harassed by police under the detention but they will continue to fight for us. #wrestlersprotest #istandwithchampions pic.twitter.com/C8XisEi3pU
— Sakshee Malikkh (@SakshiMalik) May 3, 2023
It’s sad to see so bright and hardworking wrestlers of the country taking to the streets to protest against the wrestling federation. The allegations they have levied against the WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh are serious and there is a need to investigate the matter thoroughly so justice can see the light of the day. What do you have to say on this matter?