Wrestlers cancel protests taking the fight against WFI chief to court

The protesting wrestlers have decided to end their protests against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and take the fight to the courtroom.

Wrestlers cancel protests taking the fight against WFI chief to court

Photo credit: Bajrang Punia/Facebook

Since the beginning of 2023, Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshee Malik, and Bajrang Punia have been leading demonstrations against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual harassment.

The grapplers’ protest was put on hold till June 15th, following their evacuation from Jantar Mantar’s protest location on May 28th, after receiving assurances from Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur that a chargesheet would be filed against Singh, who is also a member of the Parliament (MP) belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The wrestlers have ended their protest more than six months after they originally staged a dharna in front of Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, accusing the disgraced WFI chief Singh of abusing female grapplers sexually. They will now carry on their battle in the courtroom rather than on the streets.

Singh was charged with offences under sections 354 (assault or criminal force to a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty), 354A (sexual harassment), and 354D (stalking) of the Indian Penal Code. The POCSO charges against Singh were dropped after a second statement from the young wrestler was recorded. Vinod Tomar, the WFI assistant secretary who has been suspended, has also been charged with criminal intimidation sections 109 (abetment) and 506 (criminal intimidation).

The protesting wrestlers stated in a statement that was shared on social media that they would continue to challenge Singh in court rather than on the streets. According to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the WFI elections have been moved from July 6th to July 11th. The WFI executive committee will be chosen through voting. According to a letter from the IOA, the candidates for the positions of president, senior vice-president, four vice presidents, secretary general, treasurer, joint secretary, and five executive member positions will be chosen.

The protesting wrestlers wrote to Thakur earlier on Sunday before announcing the end of their demonstrations, pleading for more time to train for the Asian Games and the World Wrestling Championships. The protesting wrestlers will compete in single-bout trials, meaning that they will only need to win one match against a first-round victor to secure their spot, as was previously confirmed by the IOA’s ad hoc committee.

Yogeshwar Dutt criticised the new regulation, and the protesting wrestlers responded angrily to the Olympic medalist from 2012. Dutt has been accused of “eating leftovers from Singh’s plate”, by Phogat, who just declared that she would be taking a break from social media, and by Punia, who claimed Dutt is “spreading poison through social media”.

Shreya is a committed journalist who takes pride in her work. She aspires to be a political analyst in her journalism career. When she is not working, she indulges in reading, especially non-fictions.

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