WFI vs Wrestlers’ Protest: SC rejects plea; Bajrang, Vinesh threaten to return medals


May 5 2023
WFI vs Wrestlers' Protest

Wrestlers have maintained that they will continue their protest at Jantar Mantar unless the WFI chief is arrested.

The wrestlers’ protest against the WFI president has seen an ugly turn of events as the protestors and the Delhi police got involved in a violent scuffle at the Jantar Mantar on May 3 (Wednesday) night. The wrestlers have alleged that the police didn’t allow them to bring extra mattresses and folding beds to the site of the protest and that an allegedly drunk policeman misbehaved with the female wrestlers and even abused them.

With the alleged ill-treatment of the female wrestlers by the police, the male wrestlers didn’t choose to be mere bystanders and got involved, escalating the matter. The police allegedly started pushing the wrestlers and waved lathis at them even injuring one wrestler, who was reportedly hospitalised.

After a late-night ruckus on Wednesday, here is what transpired on May 4 (Thursday) on the WFI vs Wrestlers’ Protest.

Cries of Vinesh Phogat and pleas of Bajrang Punia

Vinesh Phogat

Hurt and abused, Vinesh and the other wrestlers have refused to back down and have questioned the intent of the police. She asked why the wrestlers were treated like criminals and why there were no female police officials at the site to engage with the female wrestlers.

Bajrang Punia continued to plea to the general public to come to the site and show support. He also requested political parties not to politicise the event. The wrestlers offered to return the medals over the ill-treatment.

“If this is how the wrestlers will be treated, what will we do with the medals? It was not just me. Vinesh and Sakshee were also sitting there. We are Padma Shri, Khel Ratna and Arjuna awardees. We have done so much for the country, and look what we got in return – police brutality,” Bajrang Punia was quoted as saying by PTI.

“Take it (medals) all away. We have been humiliated so much. We are fighting for our respect, but we are being crushed under their feet. Do all men have the right to abuse women? We will return our medals and government honours. We are ready to sacrifice our lives, but please get us justice,” Vinesh Phogat added.

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SC rejects plea of female wrestlers

Sakshi Malik

The Supreme Court has rejected the plea of the female wrestlers, claiming that the purpose of the petition has been fulfilled and that the FIRs have been registered against the BJP MLA Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The wrestlers claim that the rejection of the pleas is not a setback and that they will continue the protests until the MLA is brought to justice.

“We respect the SC’s judgment, and we will comply with its directive. Their lawyer told the court that two victims are yet to record their statements under Sec 161 of the CrPC. We want the victims’ statements to be recorded under Sec 164 too. If things don’t move fast enough, we have all options open.

“The SC has asked us to move to the magistrate or Delhi High Court if we are not satisfied with the pace of the investigation. We also have the option of going back to the SC if we are not satisfied with the Delhi police probe. So, we have all the options open. The protest will go on. We will not leave the site,” Vinesh Phogat said.

Sakshi Malik continued, “We know the court cannot ask the police to arrest anyone without an investigation. The victims have to first register their complaints. That is why we are not disappointed with the SC. It did its job. It got the FIR done, and now the investigation needs to start. The moot point is that dharna will continue no matter what.”

Politicians detained, barricades installed at Jantar Mantar

Swati Maliwal, the chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), AAP MLA Somnath Bharti and Rajya Sabha MP Dipendra Hooda were detained by the police. 15 more unnamed people have been reportedly detained. The security of the site of the protest has been beefed up with the police, installing barricades all around. Geeta Phogat and her husband were also detained.

Politicians like Delhi minister Saurabh Bharadwaj, Rahul Gandhi and the Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin called out the ruling party and the Delhi police for their abusive behaviour towards the protesting wrestlers. However, the police claim that neither did they use force nor were any personnel drunk. They also claimed that enough female constables were present at the site during the scuffle.

Ad-hoc committee takes over WFI

The ad-hoc committee formed last month has finally taken over the reins of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). The Sports Ministry has also asked the elections be conducted within 45 days. The ad-hoc committee was appointed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

“It was just taking charge and stock taking of the WFI today. No decision was taken,” committee member Bhupinder Singh Bajwa told PTI.

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