Three months after calling off the protest against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, India's star wrestlers resumed it at the Jantar Mantar on Sunday. They said that the protest is being resumed as no action has been taken against Singh.
Why are wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar?
In January, the wrestlers accused Singh and WFI of sexual harassment and mistreatment of wrestlers and demanded that Singh be removed from his office. Prominent wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, accused Singh of sexually exploiting women wrestlers "for years".
The wrestlers have demanded that Singh be removed from the head office and Wrestling Federation of India be disbanded.
The oversight committee
Following the protests in January, the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports announced the formation of an "oversight committee" to probe allegations. The committee was given the task of submitting a report on the issue to the ministry.
Who is Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the WFI chief in the eye of the storm?
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Olympic medalist Mary Kom is heading the Oversight Committee. Former wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, former shuttler Trupti Murgunde, SAI member Radhica Sreeman, ex-CEO of the Target Olympic Podium Plan Rajesh Rajagopalan, and CWG gold medalist Babita Phogat are the other members of the Mary Kom-led committee.
Clash over the report by the oversight committee
In April, a media report stated that the oversight committee has already submitted a report to the sports ministry. On it, Punia had said that the wrestlers will go to court to protest against the report.
Speaking to ANI, Punia said, "I read an article in which one of the committee members said that the report has been submitted to the Sports ministry without his signatures. The member also expressed his/her disagreement with the report. If a committee member is not involved in report submission and disagrees with the report, how are we supposed to trust it?"
"We were not even informed that the report was submitted to the ministry," he added.
Punia also said that WFI should make public the statements given by female wrestlers in a sting operation to a private TV channel if it feels it is innocent, and also, people get to decide who is right or wrong.
The wrestler said that they (wrestlers) will start protesting once again and will even go to the high court as soon as possible.
"We have to carry on with our sport, but we will protest and go to the high court as soon as possible," said Punia.
Why have wrestlers resumed their protest?
On Sunday, the wrestlers said that no FIR has been registered against Singh, and so they returned to protest.
"We wanted to file a sexual harassment FIR against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Two days ago we got a complaint filed but an FIR hasn't been registered yet. There are 7 female wrestlers and one of them is a minor. We want the investigation to happen fast. It is a sensitive matter. We are being framed as liars which we cannot bear. We have been waiting for two and a half months now but no one is listening. People are saying we are a spent force that is why we are protesting. We just won a medal at CWG 2022," Sakshi Malik told the media at Jantar Mantar.
"It is being heard that we are finished, that's why we are protesting. For two and a half months the government has not taken any action. We cannot reveal the name of a minor. Otherwise, her name and career will get spoilt," Mailk.
Delhi Police intervenes
Now, the Delhi Police has reportedly sought a report from the oversight committee.
"We have received seven complaints and are currently conducting an inquiry into all of them. We will register an FIR once concrete evidence is obtained. In the course of our inquiry, we have requested a report from the Sports Ministry's probe committee that was established to investigate the accusations of sexual harassment made against the WFI chief," said a senior police official.
Who is Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh?
Singh is the Lok Sabha MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh. He joined politics under Raja Anand Singh but later joined the Ram Temple movement in 1989. In 1991, he was elected the MP from Gonda. In 1999, he won from Gonda again.
He fell out with the BJP, joined the Samajwadi Party in 2008 and won the Kaiserganj seat for the first time in the 2009 general elections. He rejoined the BJP in 2014 and won from Kaiserganj again. This is his sixth term as an MP.
He is also a member of the Standing Committee on Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, as well as the consultative committee of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
He is said to have a political stronghold in four districts of UP: Balrampur, Gonda, Bahraich and Shravasti. He has also built over 50 educational institutions in these areas.
In 2012, he defeated Congress' Deepender Hooda to become the president of the WFI.
A long list of criminal cases
Singh has not been alien to criminal cases. He was one of the staunchest supporters of the Ram Mandir movement in the BJP and was accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case. According to his election affidavit from the 2019 polls, he still has four pending cases against him.
He faces charges of causing voluntary harm to a public servant (section 332 of the Indian Penal Code), attempts to murder (section 307), robbery (section 392) and illegal payments for election (section 171H).
In the mid-1990s, Singh was arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) for allegedly helping associates of gangster Dawood Ibrahim like Subash Thakur, Jayendra Thakur and Paresh Desai. He spent several months in Tihar jail but was later cleared of the charges.
According to The Print, Singh was also accused of attempting to murder former minister Vinod Kumar Singh, also known as "Pandit Singh".
In early 2022, Raj Thackrey wanted to visit the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Singh said he would be allowed to visit only if he apologised for his remarks on northern Indians working in Mumbai. He had reportedly mobilised over 100,000 people to stop Thackrey from entering the city. Thackrey had to cancel the visit.
In 2020, after her loss at Tokyo Olympics, Singh called Vinesh Phogat a "khota sikka" (fake coin). Phogat is one of the leading voices in the protest today.
(With agency inputs)