Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik on Saturday said that the wrestlers protesting against Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh will not participate in the upcoming Asian Games till the issue of sexual harassment is resolved, reported The Hindu.
The remarks came after the wrestlers organised a mahapanchayat with various khap leaders at Sonipat in Haryana on Saturday.
Seven complainants, including a minor, have accused Singh of demanding sexual favours for professional help on at least two occasions. The Bharatiya Janata Party, MP, was also allegedly involved in 15 incidents of molestation and other forms of sexual harassment. Three complainants alleged that Singh touched their breasts and stomachs on the pretext of checking their breathing.
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. Besides Malik, several other wrestlers, including Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallists, have been holding protests since April demanding Singh’s arrest.
They have alleged that Singh has been pressuring them to take back the complaint and end the protests, reported the Hindustan Times.
“If he is in police custody, he can’t pressurise,” Malik said. “Otherwise, one by one, victims will break. Till he is out, an atmosphere of terror will remain.”
Olympic medallist also said that the father of the minor wrestler was pressured to change his statement that she was not underage at the time she was molested by Singh.
Last week, the minor’s father had told The Hindu he changed his statement because he was scared for his “family, daughter and myself”.
On Saturday, Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia said that Singh should be punished if something wrong had happened with the wrestler no matter what her age is, reported the Hindustan Times.
“We have met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur,” Punia told the newspaper. “The government assured the wrestlers that our demands will be heard. If necessary, we will protest after June 15 and none of the wrestlers will resume their government duties after we start our protest. If we do not resume our protest, all the wrestlers will get back to their government jobs.”
After meeting with the protestors earlier this week, Thakur had said that the police investigation in the matter would be completed by June 15 and a chargesheet will be filed, reported The Hindu.
Delhi Police asks wrestlers to provide proof
The Delhi Police have asked two female wrestlers to provide photos, audio and video as evidence for their allegations against Singh last week, reported The Indian Express. The two athletes had alleged that the politician had touched their breasts and slid his hand on to their stomachs on the pretext of checking their breathing.
On June 5, the police issued notice to the two wrestlers to provide proof.
The alleged incidents had occurred between 2016 and 2019 at the Wrestling Federation of India office, which is also the address of Singh’s MP bungalow, and during tournaments abroad, reported the newspaper.
According to one wrestler, Singh had hugged her tightly for 10 to 15 seconds after she won a major medal at an international tournament. She claimed that she had to keep her hand near her breast to avoid being groped by Singh. The police had asked her for a photograph of the event when the hug happened, reported The Indian Express.
Another wrestler and her relative were asked to provide details of the alleged threatening calls they received. The relative was also issued a separate notice asking for video/photograph/call recording/WhatsApp chats related to threatening calls, reported the newspaper.
The report comes out after the Trinamool Congress spokesperson Saket Gokhale on Saturday sought action against the Delhi Police for taking wrestler Sangeeta Phogat to the office of the Wrestling Federation of India to “recreate the sequence of events” in a sexual harassment case.
Singh was reportedly in his bungalow when Phogat was brought to the office.