What started and seemed like an ordinary fight of accusations, the wrestler’s fight against the WFI president and the BJP MP from Kaiserganj, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has now become a national issue with politicians, social workers, farmers and sports-persons from various fields taking keen interest in getting justice for these wrestler’s. The wrestler’s have been on a dharna at Jantar Mantar since April 23 demanding the arrest of Singh who is accused of sexually harassing women wrestlers. Singh has denied the charges. Recently, the 1983 cricket World Cup winning team released a statement, saying, “We are distressed and disturbed at the unseemly visuals of our champion wrestlers being manhandled. We are also most concerned that they are thinking of dumping their hard earned medals into river Ganga,” While Vinesh Phogat is a world championship medallist, Bajrang Punia won bronze at the deferred Tokyo Olympics and Sakshi Malik is a Rio 2016 bronze medallist. Running out of patience, these wrestler’s decided to immerse their Olympic and world championship medals in the Ganga. However, after a two-hour protest at Haridwar, the tearful wrestlers were persuaded by farm leaders not to take the drastic step and assured them of action against Singh at earliest.
Supporting the wrestler’s was Chief of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Raj Thackeray, writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to address the legitimate grievances of the women wrestlers who have accused BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment. He said, “The motto of Khelo India would remain a dream if we allow a picture to be painted of the government that is indifferent to their grievances. I request you to look into this matter and bring out a solution.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too came out in support of protesting wrestlers who have been seeking arrest of WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh , stating that she will fight till they get justice. Taking to the streets of Kolkata, Banerjee described the wrestlers’ struggle as “a struggle for life, justice, and independence’. “Will fight till protesting wrestlers get justice. I will request the wrestlers to continue their movement. This fight is for life, for independence, for humanitarian justice,” said Banerjee.
A barrage of criticism from the sports fraternity including Tokyo Olympic Gold Medal winner in Javeline Neeraj Chopra and former shooter the 2008 Beijing Olympic Gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra too voiced their deep anguish over the treatment meted out to wrestlers .
However, a small ray of hope was seen on Saturday, when the wrestlers met Amit Shah at his residence to talk about their demands – days after threatening to immerse their medals into Ganga in Haridwar. Wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia on Wednesday reached union sports minister Anurag Thakur’s residence, hours after a late-night invite from him to ‘discuss their concerns’. In a tweet posted shortly after the meeting, Thakur said: “The government is willing to have a discussion with wrestlers on their issues. I have once again invited the wrestlers for the same.”
The government is willing to have a discussion with the wrestlers on their issues.
I have once again invited the wrestlers for the same.
— Anurag Thakur (@ianuragthakur) June 6, 2023
Government has assured us that police investigation will be completed before 15th June. We have requested that all FIRs against wrestlers should be taken back and he has agreed to it. If no action is taken by 15th June, we will continue our protest, Wrestler Bajrang Puina was quoted as saying after meeting Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur.
Thakur’s invitation comes days after the wrestlers met union home minister Amit Shah over charges against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is also a BJP MP. The government cannot afford to ignore the fight anymore and cool it’s heels in the name of justice. With Modi’s vision of Khelo India to encourage children taking up sports, this fight may prove to be discouraging and might keep the children away due to lack of security and safety. It’s time for the action now!