Olympian Bajrang Punia on Saturday said that the wrestlers hope to get justice after meetings with the government, but if the investigation is not completed by June 15, they will launch an even bigger protest.
Ace grapplers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat have been protesting since the beginning of this year to press for the removal and arrest of the WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment. A six-time BJP MP and WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was booked by Delhi Police following allegations of sexual harassment.
A Panchayat was also held in Haryana’s Sonipat on Saturday in support of the wrestlers.
Speaking to ANI, Bajrang Punia said, “A Panchayat of the players was called. We put forward what we had discussed with the government. The government has promised us that all investigations will be done by June 15. The panchayat also said that we will wait till June 15, but if nothing happens, we will call a huge protest”.
He said that the government has promised the wrestlers that no one from Brij Bhushan’s family will be elected to the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).
“The government promised us it would file a strong chargesheet by June 15. It said that Brij Bhushan, or anyone from his family or connected with him will not come to WFI. Also, a committee will be formed to look into the matter of sexual harassment, and it will be headed by a woman. The FIRs that were filed against the wrestlers after the incident on May 28, will be withdrawn. No case will be filed against anyone involved in the protests,” he said.
The ace grappler further said that the wrestlers are hopeful of getting justice after meeting the ministers.
“We met Home Minister and Sports Minister, and the players are hopeful. The government has assured us of justice. We are also cooperating in the investigation, as the police have to file the chargesheet by June 15. Brij Bhushan claimed that there are no witnesses, but two witnesses have already started coming on TV. If we have to start our protest again, then no one will join their duties. But, if we are not protesting, then we will get back to work, as we are employees of Railways,” he said.
He also said that if wrestlers are stopped by police to protest at Jantar Mantar, they will move court.
Punia alleged that the minor girl’s statement against the WFI chief was withdrawn because her whole family is under a “lot of pressure”.
“Her (the minor girl’s) father said that there was a lot of pressure on him, which is why he took this decision to change his statement. He also said that his entire family was depressed. But the media didn’t show this part. It only showed that the statement has been withdrawn. If people like Brij Bhushan will roam outside, it will definitely break the girls. Her (minor’s) father has said that he is under pressure and is scared of thinking about what will happen to his girl if something happens to him. People can be made to say anything under pressure,” he told ANI.
On the speculations of whether the girl is a minor or not, Punia said, “Only her family members can provide the exact details whether the girl is a minor or not. But irrespective of that, if something wrong has happened with her, that’s bad. The sad part is that fake news is being circulated that wrestlers are compromising with ministers”.
Punia also condemned Delhi Police for taking the woman wrestler to Brij Bhushan’s house for investigation.
“It seems as if the police are trying to scare the girls. They took the woman wrestler to Brij Bhushan’s house for investigation. When the wrestler asked, the police said that there is no one inside. Later, we got to know that Brij Bhushan was in his house only. It should not have been done. It is a matter of concern for us as well,” he said.
On May 28, wrestlers had planned a march and protest in front of the new Parliament, despite the imposition of Section 144 in the area. They were detained on their way by the Delhi police and FIR was filed against them under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 147, 149, 186, 188, 332, 353, Section 3 of the PDPP Act. The protest site was also cleared by the Delhi Police.
Following this, the grapplers went to Uttarakhand’s Haridwar to immerse their all medals including Olympic ones in the river Ganga, as a mark of their protest but farmer leader Naresh Tikait asked them to wait for 5 days.
However, following the intervention of farmer leader Naresh Tikait, the wrestlers later issued a five-day ultimatum to the Centre to act against the WFI chief.
Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur had said on Thursday that the talks with protesting wrestlers were positive and decisions were taken on several demands.
The wrestlers had met Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Wednesday following a fresh offer by the government for talks.
“It was a very positive discussion with the agitating wrestlers. All the issues that came from their side were discussed seriously. We have said that the chargesheet will be filed by June 15 and the Wrestling Federation of India’s elections will be held by June 30. For the players, the Internal Complaint Committee will be formed and a woman player or an official will be made its chairperson,” Thakur told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.
He said that the names of two coaches have also been proposed by wrestlers for the ad-hoc committee of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). “They will be made its members,” he said.
“We also want the players to return to the mat soon and participate in competitions ahead,” he said.