Protesting Wrestlers Allege 'Hush Job' by Sports Minister, Say Delhi Police Isn't Acting

The police are yet to call either the victims or the Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for questioning, they said.

New Delhi: Even after two FIRs (including one under POCSO) being registered against Bharatiya Janata Party MP and Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on April 28, the protesting wrestlers have alleged that the Delhi Police is dragging its feet on the matter as neither Singh nor the women who complained of sexual harassment have been called in for questioning.

“The Delhi Police have not done anything so far,” Bajrang Punia, who among the renowned wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar, said, according to The Tribune.

“The victims’ statements are yet to be recorded. What kind of an investigation is this? Brij Bhushan is yet to be summoned,” added Sakshi Malik.

The reason why the case is dragging and action is so slow, according to Vinesh Phogat, is because the Union sports minister Anurag Thakur had engaged in a “hush job”. The wrestlers had met Thakur in January and called off their protest a day later based on his assurances, but the promises he made of a fair probe were not kept.

“We waited for three-four months but when nothing happened, we came to Jan­tar Mantar. When we met the sports minister, the women wrestlers shared individual incidents related to sexual harassment. The girls were crying before him, but no action was taken. The sports minister tried to hush up the matter yet again by forming a committee. We have tried to raise this issue at every level but the matter was always suppressed,” said Vinesh, according to The Telegraph.

Punia, Malik and Vinesh have been at the forefront of the protests against Singh. Vinesh’s sister Babita Phogat, who is also a wrestler, had joined the BJP in 2019 – and the recent protests have emerged as a point of disagreement between the two sisters. Babita has questioned the protests, even alleging that they are a political ploy.

“If you are not standing for the rights of aggrieved female wrestlers, Babita sister, I request you with folded hands not to weaken our movement. It has taken years for female wrestlers to speak up against their abusers. You are also a woman, try to understand our pain,” Vinesh tweeted recently.

Babita is part of the government-appointed panel that was appointed to probe the allegations against Singh, led by boxer Mary Kom. However, the protestors say they have lost faith in this committee, which is not acting in the best interests of the sportspeople. P.T. Usha, head of the Indian Olympics Association, has also criticised the protests.

“We are much better than people like Mary Kom and P.T. Usha. If former athletes such as them do not support us, it’s a matter of shame. We do not want them to sit here with us. We just want them to support us,” Malik said, according to The Tribune. “I have been hearing since my childhood that politicians cannot be trusted as they turn on their families. They (Usha and Mary) have proved it. These are the people I grew up watching and aspired to become, but I have learnt my lessons the hard way.”

Punia too agreed that these sportspeople were now more worried about their positions than the safety of those playing the games. “PT Usha must realise that she got this position because of her sports achievements, but she has become a politician now,” he said.

Singh, meanwhile, recently declared that all the complainants against him – there were seven women who approached the Delhi Police – have been “paid”. The protesting wrestlers, according to him, were those who were at “Shaheen Bagh and the farmers’ protest”.

Despite the unseasonal rains in New Delhi, the wrestlers have remained at the protest site in Jantar Mantar, where they refused police security. They have also decided to foreground the allegations of sexual harassment to ensure the safety of women wrestlers, they said, even though there are several allegations of financial irregularities, verbal abuse etc. against Singh as well. The wrestlers have said they will continue their protest until they can be certain that the authorities are serious about acting against Singh.

As The Wire has reported, Singh has a long history of being on the wrong side of the law but perhaps getting by anyway because of his political clout. He has himself claimed that he has committed murder.