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Key moments from wrestlers’ protests against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh

Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat are leading the wrestlers’ protest. ANI

The protesting wrestlers, led by Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, met with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur at his residence on Wednesday, when after a six-hour meeting, the wresters announced that they won’t stage any protests till 15 June.

Bajrang, Sakshi and Vinesh Phogat had been at the forefront of a protest outside the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who had allegedly sexually assaulted women wrestlers.

Furthermore, the wrestlers said that the government has promised them of justice and the fresh Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president election will be conducted on 30 June.

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Earlier this year in January, the wrestlers had staged protests against Brij Bhushan at Jantar Mantar, but had returned home after the formation of an Oversight Committee by the Sports Ministry.

However, the grapplers resumed their protests at the same venue on 23 April, claiming that seven women wrestlers, including a minor, had filed a sexual harassment complaint against the WFI chief. They had also accused the Delhi Police of failing to register an FIR.

With the wrestlers protest now being paused, let’s now take a look at the top 10 significant moments from the controversy:

1. Jantar Mantar Protest

Unwilling to give up their clamour for justice, world champion wrestlers resumed their protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over sexual harassment allegations at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on 23 April. Seven women wrestlers had filed complaint against Singh at Connaught Place police station. However, their complaints weren’t acknowledged by the Delhi Police.

2. Supreme Court’s order

On the demand of the protesting wrestlers, the apex court issued a notice to the Delhi Police on a plea seeking registration of an FIR against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Following which on 28 April, two FIRs against the powerful MP from UP’s Kaiserganj were registered, one under the stringent POCSO Act and another related to outraging the modesty of a woman.

3. PT Usha’s Statement

Indian Olympic Association(IOA) president PT Usha criticised #MeToo protest against MP of the ruling party and blamed the star wrestlers for tarnishing India’s image on the global stage. PT Usha was criticised heavily for her derogatory remarks, following which she visited the protest site to support the champion wrestlers on 3 May.

4. Farmer leader joins the protest

As the protest progressed, Rakesh Tikait, prominent farmer leader reiterated his support to the lauded heroes of India. Later, Khap Panchayats leaders had also voiced their support for justice. On 8 May, farmer leaders broke the barricades to reach the protest site in to demand justice.

5. Opposition support

Several opposition leaders including Priyanka Gandhi and Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal questioned the system that seems to have turned its back to those who made the country proud. The top Indian opposition leaders had also visited the protest site at Jantar Mantar to back the agitators.

6. Candlelight march at India Gate

On 23 May, thousands of supporters of the wrestlers had took out a candlelight march towards India Gate from Jantar Mantar, amid heavy security, demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

67 New Parliament building march

Less than two kilometres away from the grand inauguration of India’s new parliament building on 28 May, chaos unfolded as the top star wrestlers were detained by Delhi Police while attempting to march towards the new parliament house. The Olympic medal winning champions were shoved, pushed and dragged into buses when they tried to cross security barricades to join Mahila Maha Panchayat.

8. Protest site cleared

Soon after the wrestlers were whisked away from the protest site (Jantar Mantar), the tarapaulin-roofed tent was pulled down by the Delhi police on 28 May. Matresses, bamboo poles, cartons of water bottles, folding beds and air coolers were all disposed off from the protest site.

9. Medal immersion in Ganga

In an unforeseen turn of events, the star wrestlers had decided to throw their hard-earned medals in holy river of Ganga on 30 May. However, they were stopped by farmer leader Naresh Tikat, who gave the government five days to act on the demands over sexual harassment allegation against WFI chief Singh.

10. Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat resume services

Evicted from their protest site Jantar Mantar, top wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat had resumed work in Railways. According to the media reports, Malik joined her office back on 31 May. Denying the claims of ending the protest, the wrestlers stated that they will continue to fight until justice prevails.

11. Minors’ new statement and halt of protest

Following a discussion with sports minister Anurag Thakur, protesting grapplers announced to halt their agitation till 15 June, after the minister promised them of complete interrogation into the case till them.

Meanwhile, the minor who had previously accused the WFI president Singh of sexual harassment and had booked him under POSCO act has now denied to the claims.

In a new statement, minor’s father has claimed that his daughter wasn’t sexually assaulted by the powerful BJP MP.

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