India’s top wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik were on Sunday detained by the Delhi Police while they were marching towards the new Parliament building to hold a “mahila mahapanchayat” or women’s conclave.
The athletes have been holding a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar for more than a month demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the chief of the Wrestling Federation of India. Singh, also a Bharatiya Janata Party MP, has been accused of sexually harassing seven women players, including a minor.
On Sunday, chaos first unfolded at Jantar Mantar after the wrestlers tried to breach the barricades that have been put up to prevent them from reaching the new Parliament that was inaugurated earlier in the day by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The situation escalated as the wrestlers and the police shoved and pushed each other.
After detaining the protestors, Delhi Police officials started removing mats, tents, hoardings and other things set up by the wrestlers for themselves at Jantar Mantar.
Punia refuted the police’s allegations that the protestors broke barricades and violated law and order.
While being taken away, Phogat told reporters, “naya desh mubarak ho [congratulations on the new country].”
In a tweet, Malik wrote: “By arresting people how we can call ourselves ‘mother of democracy’? India’s daughters are in pain.”
The Delhi Police said no protestor will be allowed to move towards the new building since they do not have permission to hold the event. The police also warned that wrestlers should not be involved in any “anti-national activity”, PTI reported.
Thousands of police personnel had been deployed and multiple layers of barricades were in place in the Lutyens’ Delhi area.
The police also stopped hundreds of farmers at the Haryana-Punjab border near Ambala city from entering the capital city to show their solidarity with the wrestlers. A large number of police personnel are also deployed in Sonipat, Jhajjar, Jind, Kurukshetra, Ambala, Sirsa and Gurugram districts and all vehicles entering Haryana were being thoroughly checked, officials told PTI.
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait had earlier said that thousands of farmers were not allowed to enter Delhi from the Ghazipur border. “We will sit here and decide what to do next,” he told reporters.
Tikait was a prominent face of the year-long farmers protest against three agriculture laws, which culminated in the legislation being withdrawn in November 2021. Border entry points of Delhi like Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur were sites of protest where thousands of farmers had hunkered down in sit-in agitations.
An unidentified senior police officer told PTI that every vehicle entering Delhi on Sunday will be checked and anyone whom the police feels has the potential to disrupt the law and order situation will not be allowed.
The police have issued a traffic advisory that New Delhi district will be treated as a controlled area on Sunday. According to the traffic advisory, only public transport vehicles, civil service aspirants, bonafide residents, labelled vehicles and emergency vehicles will be allowed to move in the New Delhi area. The Delhi traffic police have urged people to plan their journey accordingly and avoid the New Delhi district from 5.30 am to 3 pm.
The police have also asked the Municipal Corporation of Delhi for permission to use MC Primary Girls School in Kanjawala Chowk area of Old Bawana as a temporary jail. But Mayor Shelly Oberoi refused to give permission.