#WrestlersProtest : Certainly Not The Way To Treat Our National Icons

Picture : Twitter/ ANI

They are hailed by everyone when they bring glory to the Nation by winning medals in World championships and Olympics. They give their blood and sweat to make the Indian flag unfurl at the award ceremonies. Yet these players are finding it tough to make the authorities listen to their woes. Sticking to their stand, and with much media attention, the Delhi Police finally on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it will register an FIR against wrestling body chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Singh amid the ongoing protest.

The Delhi Police informed the Apex Court about the FIR while the court was hearing a petition moved by the top women wrestlers bringing allegations of sexual assault against Singh. On April 26, the Delhi Police told the Supreme Court that a preliminary inquiry was required into the allegations before they could file an FIR against the accused. The court then directed the Commissioner of Police to assess threat perception of a minor complainant after petitioners placed material alleging danger to her safety and six other wrestlers who made allegations against Singh to the police on April 21

“We were worried on two grounds – security and safety and the second is there are 40 cases against Singh”, said Kapil Sibal appearing for the petitioner. Brij Bhushan Singh has been accused of sexual harassment second time in the last four months. In January 2023, the wrestlers sat in a protest which ended after the government promised to look into the allegations against Singh. Nothing happened, and the wrestlers resumed their protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar demanding punishment for Singh.

Kaiserganj MP Brij Bhushan Singh however remains in complete denial of allegations against him. In a video, he said, “Friends, the day I introspect on what I gained or lost, and feel that I no longer have the strength to fight; the day I feel helpless, I would wish death as I won’t be living a life like that. Instead of living such a life, I would wish that death takes me in its embrace.”

In a new twist, Indian Olympic Association president PT Usha stirred up another debate with her controversial remark that the protesters should have shown some discipline before taking to the streets. She said the wrestlers’ protest “amounts to indiscipline” and slammed them for not waiting for the report by a committee that is looking into the charges against Wrestling Federation of India chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has denied any wrongdoing. She further said, “The players should not have protested on the streets. They should have at least waited for the report of the committee. What they have done is not good for the game and the country. It is a negative approach.”
Unfortunately her remarks were not taken in good light.

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor slammed PT Usha for criticising the wrestlers’ public protest over alleged sexual misconduct by the wrestling body head. He said “Dear @PTUshaOfficial, it is does not become you to disparage the justified protests of your fellow sportspersons in the face of repeated & wanton sexual harassment. Their standing up for their rights does not “tarnish the image of the nation”. Ignoring their concerns – instead of hearing them out, investigating them & taking just action – does,” the Thiruvananthapuram MP tweeted.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too has backed the wrestlers and called for justice in the matter. She said, “We must all stand with the wrestlers who are protesting. They are speaking in one voice. Our sportspersons are the pride of our nation. They are champions. The guilty must be brought to book, irrespective of their political affiliation. Justice must prevail. Truth must win”.

TMC MP Mahua Moitra tweeted her reaction to PT Usha’s comments,

For the time being these wrestlers have won their first round with Delhi Police registering the FIR. “This is our first step towards victory, but the protests will continue,” Sakshi Malik said.

Vinesh Phogat added, “This fight is not just about getting an FIR filed. This fight is about getting justice, to punish him, send him behind bars and get him removed from all the positions he holds.” She further revealed that the wrestlers have lost any faith in the Delhi police and will present further evidence only to the Supreme Court, not to any committee or the police. “We will accept what the Supreme Court decides, even if they go in favour of the report of the Oversight Committee. We have presented our face in front of the country’s courts.”

It’s a real test of patience and perseverance for these players in their fight against the injustice and harassment. They need to stick to the fight the same way they do inside the rings. For how long they can sustain, only time will tell since the fight has just begun!

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