Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia on Sunday announced that the protesting wrestlers will soon hold a mahapanchayat as they continue to press for Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s arrest in a sexual harassment case.
India’s top wrestlers including Punia, two-time World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat and Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik have been protesting since April demanding that Singh be arrested for sexually harassing female athletes, including a minor.
Singh, who is a Bharatiya Janata Party MP, has been booked by the Delhi Police in two cases after the Supreme Court intervened in the matter.
On Sunday, Punia was addressing a mahapanchayat organised in support of the protesting wrestlers in Mundlana village of Haryana’s Sonipat district. The event was also attended by former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik, farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary, among others, reported The Indian Express.
“It is because of your support that we have the courage to continue,” Punia said. “Two-three incidents have happened in recent past with our players, sisters and daughters that have left them completely broken.”
Punia was referring to the incident that happened on May 28, when the protesting wrestlers had tried to lead a march towards the new Parliament complex in New Delhi that was being inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the time. The wrestlers were manhandled by the Delhi Police and were detained at several police stations for about ten hours.
Following this, the police had booked Punia, Malik, Phogat and others for rioting and obstructing public servants from discharging their duty.
On May 30, the wrestlers had threatened to immerse their medals in the Ganga river as part of their demand for the arrest of their federation chief. Farmer leader Naresh Tikait stopped the wrestlers from doing so by promising a solution within five days.
On Sunday, Punia said that the wrestlers will hold one mahapanchayat to bring everyone together and demand justice for the athletes. He also urged the Khap leaders and farmer organisations not to hold multiple mahapanchayats.
Punia’s comments came after farmer leaders had given an ultimatum to the Modi government on June 2 to arrest Singh by June 9 or face backlash from khap leaders who would hold panchayats across the nation to support the wrestlers. The khap and farmer leaders had held the first mahapanchayat on the matter in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar on June 1.
On June 3, the protesting wrestlers, including Punia and Malik along with several coaches had also met with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, according to The Indian Express.
As wrestlers continue to demand Singh’s arrest, the BJP MP has remained unfazed and maintained that the allegations against him are false.
However, details of the first information reports against the politician have shown that he demanded sexual favours in lieu of professional help from at least two female wrestlers and harassed over half a dozen players.