The protesting wrestlers on Monday threatened to approach the top court of the country if an FIR is not lodged against WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and also sought to mobilise nationwide support by appealing to ‘khaps’, ‘panchayats’ and several other organisations to back their cause.
On a day when the sports ministry stalled the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election on May 7 and asked the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to form an ad-hoc committee to run the day-to-day affairs of the federation, the protesting wrestlers said they have nothing to do with the polls and would continue to press for a proper investigation into the allegations that Singh sexually harassed women athletes.
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Admitting that they made a mistake by ending their protest three months back, the wrestlers, led by Olympians Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, said they were ”manipulated” by certain people.
”We are not going to listen to anyone now. We will be the face of the protest but we will now be guided by our ’gurujans’ (elderly) and ’coach-khalifas’ (mentors). It was a mistake to end the protest the last time around. We will not accept any mediator now, we won’t let anyone deceive us,” said Vinesh.
“All we want is that the police file an FIR and investigate the matter. We are citizens of independent India and there are numerous channels to get justice. Won’t we get it (justice) from anywhere?”, she questioned.
The wrestlers have claimed that they went to Connaught Place Police Station to lodge an FIR against the WFI president but the cops refused to entertain their plea.
While Sakshi said they were manipulated, Bajrang also said that they want ‘khaps’ and other organisations to support their stir.
“We wanted to keep it (protest) apolitical the last time around but now, we want the farmers’ organisations, the women’s organisation, the ‘khaps’ to support us.” When wrestlers had began their protest in January, former wrestler and now BJP affiliate Babita Phogat had mediated between the aggrieved wrestlers and the government.
However, it seems that wrestlers are not happy with the way Babita, who was part of the government’s oversight panel, conducted herself.
“Maybe she loves politics more than wrestling now,” Vinesh said while taking a jibe at her cousin sister.
Sakshi said their legal team was contemplating approaching the apex court.
“We will go to the Supreme Court. If we are wrong in levelling the allegations, then a counter FIR should be filed against us,” she said.
Asked if they would reveal the names of the victims, Vinesh said, “The oversight committee was always biased against us. Only the Supreme Court will get to know the identity of the victims, not Brij Bhushan.”
Vinesh also said that it benefits only Brij Bhushan that he is an MP from BJP, the party that is currently running the central government.
“Definitely it helps. We don’t know if the government is under pressure (from party MP)”, Bajrang Punia said.
Bajrang added, “You should ask the government why is it quiet? When we win medals for the country, we are felicitated and now that we are on road with our demands, no one is bothered.”
On being questioned whether they feel it has become a battle of two states, Haryana from where most wrestlers hail and Uttar Pradesh, the land of WFI supremo, Bajrang shot back, “When we win medals for the country, we are known as Indian sportspersons. And now when we are fighting for justice, people label it as UP vs Haryana.”
“They (Brij Bhushan) have money and muscle power but we have truth on our side.”
Asked if they presented solid evidence before the probe panel, Vinesh said, they told the panel that Brij Bhushan called a woman wrestler in his room and tried to impose himself on her.”
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The government had formed a six-member panel on January 23 to investigate into the sexual harassment and intimidation allegations against WFI the chief.
The panel submitted its report on April 5 but the government has not made public its findings, saying it is still under examination.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)
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