Renowned wrestlers, including Olympic medallists and Commonwealth champions, have been protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar since April 23. They have accused Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, of sexual harassment of the women wrestlers. They have demanded that the WFI chief should be arrested, removed from his post and strict action should be taken against him.
After four days of sustained protest, on intervention of the Supreme Court, the FIR was registered by the Delhi police. However, the demands of the wrestlers are yet to be met. The wrestlers have announced that they will continue their protest and that they will intensify their agitation if the WFI chief is not arrested by May 21.
On the evening of May 7, the protestors held a candle light march at Jantar Mantar. They called upon people all over the country to hold candle light vigils in their support.
The protesting wrestlers and their supporters have had to face harassment by the police and authorities at the protest site. They have been confined behind barricades, with massive police deployment. Their interaction with people has been greatly restricted, due to the heavy barricading and the intimidating presence of the police.
On the night of May 3, after heavy rains, the protesting wrestlers were attacked by the police for bringing in folding beds for their night stay. Some of the protestors were injured. The protestors have also accused the authorities of cutting off electricity and water supply at the dharna site, adding to their discomfort and insecurity. Angered and humiliated, the wrestlers have threatened to return their medals, as a mark of protest.
Women’s organisations, kisan organisations, organisations of workers and youth and hundreds of people from all over the country have been coming to the protest site to meet the wrestlers and express their support.
Four national women’s organisations — the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), All India Mahila Sanskritik Sangathan (AIMSS) and All India Agragami Mahila Sanghatan (AIAMS), issued a joint statement expressing solidarity with the protesting wrestlers. They have given a joint call to hold nationwide protests for the immediate arrest of the WFI chief and Haryana minister Sandeep Singh, both of whom have been accused of sexual harassment of women athletes.
Earlier, on April 27, a joint protest march by women’s organisations was held at the police headquarters on Jai Singh Road near Jantar Mantar. The protesting organisations included AIDWA, AIMSS, AIPWA, NFIW, Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan and Purogami Mahila Sangathan. They submitted a joint memorandum to the police commissioner, supporting the demands of the wrestlers, but were prevented from marching to the police headquarters.
The national meeting of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) held on 30th April 2023, had expressed its full support to and solidarity with the protesting women wrestlers.
The SKM, which had spearheaded the year-long kisan agitation (2020-21) at Delhi’s borders, announced on May 6, an all-India agitation program in support of the protesting wrestlers, from May 11-18, including protest actions at all state capitals and district headquarters.
On May 7, leaders of SKM from Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh, and hundreds of kisan activists went to the protest site at Jantar Mantar to extend their support to the wrestlers.
More than 2000 police personnel were deployed at the protest site as well as at Singhu border in North West Delhi and other borders of Delhi, on May 7, to prevent the kisans from marching into the capital. Many kisan activists were detained by the police. However, despite the barricades and heavy police presence, the kisans succeeded in reaching the protest site. They held meetings and addressed press conferences at the site, calling upon people to support their struggle. Delegations of the SKM met the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, the Union Sports Minister, the Home Minster and other authorities, to demand immediate arrest of Brij Bhushan Saran Singh.
The wrestlers have expressed their gratitude for all the support they are receiving, which is giving them the courage to continue to press for their just demands.