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Protesting Wrestlers Joined Duty but Agitation Continues

Protesting Wrestlers Joined Duty but Agitation Continues


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 5:  India’s ace wrestlers – Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, who have been at the forefront of the protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, have resumed their duties in the Railways but have denied having withdrawn their agitation.

Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia resumed their work on May 31, days after the protesting wrestlers were evicted from Jantar Mantar in Delhi – where they had been protesting since April. But Malik and Punia responded to media reports on Monday that the agitation had been withdrawn and said they would continue the fight for justice and asserted that none of the wrestlers have backed down from the protest and nor they will.

Malik also clarified that she would continue to take part in protests and rejected reports that she has withdrawn from the ongoing protest against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Taking to Twitter, the 30-year-old wrote: “This news is completely wrong. In the fight for justice, none of us has backed down, nor will we. Along with Satyagraha, I am fulfilling my responsibility in Railways. Our fight continues till justice is served. Please don’t spread any wrong news.”

Fellow wrestler Bajrang Punia also deemed the reports as fake and wrote on Twitter: “The news of withdrawing the movement is just a rumour. These news are being spread to harm us. We have neither retreated nor have we withdrawn the movement. The news of women wrestlers withdrawing FIR is also false. The fight will continue till justice is served,” Punia tweeted.

“We have resumed our duties in Railways, but we are also working on our future strategy,” Malik and Punia said. Bajrang, Sakshi along with fellow Olympian and World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat have been protesting against Singh demanding his arrest on allegations of sexual harassment charge against seven wrestlers, including one minor. But all the three India internationals have returned to work as Office on Special Duty (Northern Railways) since last week.

The wrestlers had also met Home Minister Amit Shah late Saturday evening to request him for an impartial probe against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh accused of sexual harassment by seven female wrestlers, including a minor.

Amit Shah assured the wrestlers that the law remains the same for everyone, it’s learnt. “Let the law take its own course,” he reportedly told the wrestlers. Malik said they had a “normal” conversation with Shah. “We have only one demand – to arrest Brij Bhushan Singh. We will continue our protest until we get justice,” she said.

Sources say the protesting wrestlers had sought a meeting with Shah after their five-day deadline for action against the wrestling federation chief ended on Saturday. The wrestlers, who allege that their protest against the wrestling federation chief has been largely ignored, had last month announced their decision to immerse their medals into the river Ganga in Haridwar.

They, however, temporarily shelved their plan after intervention from farmer leader Naresh Tikait. Earlier, the Delhi Police had accused the protesting wrestlers of rioting during their protest march to new parliament, saying they broke the law in a frenzy despite repeated requests.

Several protesters were detained during the march on May 28. Visuals of champions Vinesh Phogat and her cousin Sangeeta Phogat being pinned onto the ground by the police had evoked shock and outrage across the country.

The Delhi Police, who shut the Jantar Mantar protest site to the wrestlers after the crackdown, said they will also not be allowed to hold a protest at India Gate. Cops have filed two First Information Reports or FIRs against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Of the two FIRs, one is based on combined complaints of six adult wrestlers, and a separate one is based on the complaint of the father of an underage wrestler.

Earlier, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur had urged the wrestlers to “fully cooperate with a fair investigation” and let “the law take its own course.” The last high-level meeting between the protesting wrestlers and government representatives was held on May 27, on the eve of the new Parliament’s inauguration. As the talks were inconclusive, the wrestlers, along with their supporters, went ahead with their protest drawing support from many sports persons, sports organisations general public nationally and internationally.



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