Won't end protest unless Brij Bhushan is put behind bars: Protesting wrestlers

India's top wrestlers intensified their protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and asserted that they won't leave the protest site until the WFI president, who is facing sexual harassment charges, is arrested.
Won't end protest unless Brij Bhushan is put behind bars: Protesting wrestlers

New Delhi | With several politicians and farmer organisations in their corner, India's top wrestlers on Tuesday intensified their protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and asserted that they won't leave the protest site until the WFI president, who is facing sexual harassment charges, is arrested.

The wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, alleged that the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief is now resorting to strong arm tactics and trying to break the "victims" by issuing threats and offering bribes.

Vinesh claimed that the Delhi police has leaked names of the victims to Brij Bhushan, who is using Haryana Wrestling Association secretary general Rakesh and coach Mahavir Prasad Bishnoi to threaten the families of the women wrestlers, who have filed complaints against the WFI chief.

"Brij Bhushan now knows the names of the complainants. The Delhi police has leaked the names to him. They are issuing threats. They are trying to break the victims and that's why the delay in lodging an FIR," Vinesh told reporters.

"We thought the sports ministry will give us justice but it did not happen. But we have faith in judiciary. If the Supreme Court takes everything related to this case under its wings and we are sure that no game will be played, only then we will leave the protest site.

"If just an FIR is lodged, we will not go from here. He has to be put behind the bars. If he remains outside, we won't be safe. How will we train, if he is roaming free," Vinesh said.

Would they be content if the police file an FIR and begins investigation? Vinesh said, "There are hundreds and thousands of FIRs against many people. But it is a question of justice. Only when are sure that we will not be tricked, we will end protest, otherwise we are here." Coach Mahabir Prasad denied the allegations.

"I don't know who the victims are. I am being dragged into this because I had refused to be on the side of the wrestlers," Mahabir Prasad told PTI.

"They wanted me to be with them in the protest but I told them that while they are dear to me and I can help with the coaching part even if they call me in the wee hours, but I won't stand on one side because the federation has also helped me in my career.

"I chose to be neutral and the wrestlers did not like it, so they are accusing me." Several politicians, including former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and 'khap' leaders on Tuesday met with the protesting wrestlers and extended their support to them.

Hooda, Udit Raj, another Congress leader, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat, who was stopped from joining the stir by the wrestlers in January, were welcomed by the wrestlers, a day after they had sought support from all quarters.

Hooda spent about 35 minutes with the wrestlers at the Jantar Mantar, where the grapplers had started their protest in January, demanding the removal WFI President.

While Hooda did not speak, Raj asked the protesting wrestlers to stick to their cause, like the farmers did against the farm laws and said, "You will emerge victorious".

The Bharat Kisan Union (BKU) representative also joined the wrestlers' stir.

A few kids from Madhya Pradesh offered their piggy bank, containing their savings, to the wrestlers.

Bajrang Punia, while thanking them, said, "You have big hearts" and returned the 'gullak'.

Earlier in day, the Supreme Court issued notices to the Delhi government and others on a plea by seven women wrestlers alleging non-registration of an FIR on their sexual harassment allegations against Birj Bhushan, saying these are "serious allegations" requiring its consideration.

The top court was initially of the view that the plea of the women wrestlers may be listed for hearing on Friday. However, after hearing some arguments from senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who mentioned the matter, it decided to take up the case straightaway.

The bench said normally a remedy to approach police is available under Section 156 (police officers' power to investigate cognisable cases) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Sibal alleged that seven wrestlers, including a minor, have made alleged sexual harassment allegations but no FIR has been lodged so far despite the law being very clear on this aspect.

Babita alleges oversight panel member snatched report from her, 'ridiculous' says Radhica

New Delhi | Former wrestler Babita Phogat on Tuesday claimed that fellow oversight committee member Radhica Sreeman snatched the final report on sexual harassment allegations against WFI chief Bri Bhushan Sharan Singh from her before she could read the findings in full, a charge vehemently denied by the former sports administrator.

Babita, who was included in the government's probe panel to investigate the allegations on the insistence of protesting wrestlers, alleged that she had some objections but Radhica did not let her read the report in full.

"I had read just a few pages of the final report and I had some objections but Radhica Sreeman came and snatched the report. She said since I belong to the same family (Phogat), that is holding the protest, I can't read the report," Babita told PTI.

"She was working on behalf of the chairman (Mary Kom) and told me that the chairman has taken a decision (on signing of the report)." When contacted by PTI, Radhica dismissed the charge as "ridiculous".

"Why will I do that? What benefit I will accrue by doing something like that. In fact she read the report 4-5 times and agreed to the findings. Each and every word that was written in the report, was explained to her," Radhica said.

"Whatever was written in the report is based on testimonies of all those who appeared in the hearing and everything is video recorded, it can't be tampered with. If at all I snatched the report from her why didn't she write that in her dissent note," questioned the veteran administrator.

"This is a baseless charge. In fact on the eve of Holi, all the members sat and whatever was being drafted, based on the hearings, Babita was explained each and every word and she was satisfied." Radhica also said that all members of the committee were requested to assemble at SAI headquarters on April 4 for the signing of the report, but Babita did not turn up.

"Even her phone was switched off that day. She said her baby was unwell so we asked her to come on April 5 and sign the report. Since everyone else had arrived on April 4, the chairman (Mary Kom) decided that members who are present can sign the report and Babita can do that later," explained Radhica.

The government had formed the oversight committee, headed by legendary boxer MC Mary Kom, to look into the allegations levelled by the wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia.

Others in the six-member panel included former wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, former shuttler Trupti Murgunde, Radhica and Rajesh Rajagopalan, ex-CEO, Target Olympic Podium Scheme.

The panel submitted its report on April 5 but the government has not yet made public its findings.

However, PTI has learnt that the probe panel has given Brij Bhushan a clean chit with a 5-1 verdict.

As the wrestlers returned to Jantar Mantar to resume their protest and approach the Supreme Court, Vinesh said Babita is more worried about her political career than the cause of the wrestlers.

When asked why she has not visited the protest site, like she did the last time in January, Babita said, "I was with the wrestlers and will remain with them. I am under no political pressure."

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