• Wednesday, October 04, 2023


India wrestlers protest: Farmer outfits plan to meet president Murmu; protests in Haryana, Punjab

Indian sports minister Anurag Thakur maintained that the government is handling the issue “sensitively,” and has agreed to the wrestlers’ earlier demands.

Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik along with others reach Haridwar in the northern state of Uttarakhand to immerse their medals in the Ganges river as a mark of protest against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over the sexual harassment allegations, on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. (ANI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

Farmer outfits on Thursday (1) held a ‘khap mahapanchayat’ (mega village meeting) in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and a series of protests in neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana, showing solidarity with wrestlers who have accused the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and parliamentarian of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, of sexual harassment.

At the congregation in Soram village in UP’s Muzaffarnagar, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said they planned to meet president Droupadi Murmu and will hold another mahapanchayat in Haryana’s Kurukshetra on Friday (2) to discuss the next steps in the agitation.

In Delhi, parliamentarians of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) walked out of a parliamentary panel meeting after their demand to discuss the safety of women athletes was rejected by its chairman and BJP MP Vivek Thakur, according to party MP Sushmita Dev.

TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee led a candlelight march in state capital Kolkata, slamming the Narendra Modi government and backing wrestlers who want Singh put behind bars.

But Indian sports minister Anurag Thakur maintained that the government is handling the issue “sensitively,” and has agreed to the wrestlers’ earlier demands.

“The wrestlers asked for an FIR (first information report), which has been filed by Delhi police. A committee of administrators has been set up by the Wrestling Federation of India as they demanded that its office bearers shouldn’t be allowed to function,” Thakur told reporters during a visit to Mumbai.

The mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar went on for several hours.

“The representatives of the khaps will meet the President and the government in support of the agitating wrestlers and this fight will continue till the protesting wrestlers get justice,” Tikait said.

Khap leaders from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi were invited to participate in the panchayat.

Olympic and World Championships medal-winning wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sangeeta Phogat are among the players protesting against the WFI chief, who on Thursday accused them of changing their demands.

At a press conference in UP’s Gonda, he suggested that the wrestlers should wait for the findings of the Delhi Police probe into the allegations against him.

Under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), farmers held protests at the offices of several deputy commissioners and sub divisional magistrates in Haryana and Punjab, submitting memorandums addressed to Murmu.

The SKM had given a call for a “nationwide” protests on Thursday, leading police to tighten security at Delhi’s borders.

In Amritsar in Punjab, farmers burnt Singh’s effigy near the deputy commissioner’s office. The SKM protests were also held in Sangrur, Patiala, Mansa, Barnala, Moga, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Ludhiana and Tarn Taran in Punjab.

Farmers burnt an effigy in front of the mini-secretariat in Hisar, Haryana. There was slogan-shouting also in places such as Ambala, Jhajjar, Bhiwani and Kurukshetra in the northern state.

“We are submitting this memorandum to your high office to act expeditiously to protect the honour of the daughters of India and put an end to this sordid saga that has brought great shame to the nation and her people,” the farmers’ note said.

Youth Congress activists held a demonstration in Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.

Senior Indian National Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the BJP-led Haryana government should not sit like “a mute spectator” on the issue, and take up the matter with the Modi government.

“Wrestlers who brought laurels for nation have not been given justice in the matter. The fact that these wrestlers were forced to contemplate immersing their medals in river Ganga is shameful for the country,” the former chief minister said in Chandigarh.

On Tuesday, the wrestlers had travelled to Haridwar in the northern state of Uttarakhand after announcing that they will throw their medals in the Ganges river there in protest.

But they were persuaded by khap and farmer leaders not to carry out the threat. The leaders sought five days’ time from them to address their grievances.

The Delhi Police has filed two FIRs based on the wrestlers’ complaints. One of them relates to allegations by a minor wrestler and has been registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

(With PTI inputs)

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