Wrestlers’ Protest: Meeting with Home Minister and Demands for Justice

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Days after threatening to throw their medals into the Ganga, and the night before their five-day deadline for action expired, a delegation of protesting wrestlers met Union Home Minister Amit Shah at his official residence in the Capital late Saturday.

The meeting, which lasted for over two hours and ended after midnight, was attended by Olympic medalists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, along with several coaches. Bajrang stated, “We had a meeting with the Home Minister. I can’t comment further.”

Bajrang, Sakshi, and World Championship medalist Vinesh Phogat have been leading protests against Singh, who has been accused of sexual harassment by seven female wrestlers, including a minor.

The police registered two FIRs against Singh on April 28, which reportedly include instances of demanding “sexual favours” in exchange for professional assistance, as well as several incidents of sexual harassment, molestation, and intimidation. Additionally, one Olympian, a Commonwealth gold medallist, an international referee, and a state-level coach have corroborated the allegations of at least three female wrestlers.

The status of the investigation into these allegations against Singh was the key issue raised by the wrestlers at their meeting with Shah. The wrestlers underlined their demand for a strong chargesheet to be filed quickly. The Home Minister stated that the due process needs to be followed.

Earlier, Sports Minister also 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 plans to march to the new Parliament. They were stopped on the way, manhandled, and detained by the Delhi Police. The police also filed charges against them under multiple sections, including rioting.

In response to the treatment they received, the wrestlers decided to “immerse” their medals in the Ganga last Tuesday. They went to Haridwar but reconsidered at the last minute, after a phone call from a leader who asked for some time, and pressure from their families.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Naresh Tikait, who also reached Haridwar, asked the wrestlers to defer their decision by five days. On June 2, after Singh was forced to postpone his rally in Ayodhya, Tikait said at a khap panchayat that the government should be given “7 to 10 days” to take action against Singh.

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