Protesting wrestlers on being detained amid march: ‘The world is watching us’
New Delhi: Protesting wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, were detained on Sunday after a scuffle with security personnel who tried to stop them from marching to the new Parliament building as it was being inaugurated. Soon after, the Delhi Police cleared
the site of their over-month-long sit-in at Jantar Mantar and said they will not be allowed to return there.
Women detainees were released later in the evening.
The wrestlers, who had resumed their agitation against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on April 23 demanding his arrest for alleged sexual harassment of several women grapplers, had called for a women ‘Mahapanchayat’ on Sunday for which they did not have permission.
Chaotic scenes were witnessed at the dharna site at Jantar Mantar, barely three kilometres from where the new Parliament building was inaugurated by the prime minister, as protesters and police personnel shoved and pushed each other when the Phogat sisters, Sakshi Malik and others tried to breach the barricades.
Immediately after the wrestlers and other protesters were pushed into buses and taken to different locations, the police personnel began clearing the protest site by removing cots, mattresses, coolers, fans and the tarpaulin ceiling along with other belongings of the wrestlers.
Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Dependra Pathak claimed the protesters ignored repeated requests and warnings and “wrestled” with police personnel who tried to stop them. He said an FIR will be filed against the protesters.
“Today was an important day for the country as the new Parliament building was to be inaugurated and despite warnings and repeatedly urging protesters at Jantar Mantar to not march beyond the protest site, they continued to do so,” he said, adding the behaviour of the wrestlers was “highly irresponsible”. “The detained protesting wrestlers will not be allowed to continue with their dharna at Jantar Mantar. The entire protest venue at Jantar Mantar has been cleared,” Pathak said.
Taking to Twitter, Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, however, vowed to continue their protest at Jantar Mantar.
“Our movement is not over.... we will start our satyagraha at Jantar Mantar. In this country, there will be no dictatorship but there will be satyagraha held by women wrestlers,” she tweeted in Hindi.
All the female wrestlers who were detained have been released and the male wrestlers will also be released soon, a senior office said later in the evening. The police claimed the wrestlers broke and scaled the barricades, misbehaved and pushed the police personnel including the women constables.
Asked about the police being criticised for the way they handled the situation, Pathak said that they had urged the wrestlers politely to carry out their protest at Jantar Mantar but they started “wrestling” with the police.
He also claimed that no force was used by the police personnel. “They pushed our police personnel including women constables. They engaged in wrestling with our personnel. But we did not use any force. We did not use lathi-charge because they are the pride of our nation.”
“Instead, to contain the situation and maintain law and order, they were removed from the protest site using body-to-body push,” the officer added.
Legal action will be taken against protesters for misbehaving with police personnel, violating the police order and trying to create disturbance, he said. A teary-eyed Vinesh, who showed maximum resistance, later said from a bus that they are being punished for demanding justice. “The accused is roaming free. He is being given shelter by the government and athletes who won medals for the country are now being put in jail for demanding justice for country’s daughters,” Vinesh said. “Welcome to the new country,” she quipped from the bus window.
Bajrang feels grave injustice was being meted out to them for demanding justice. “Over 2000 of our supporters were detained. Everywhere dictatorship is going on.”
Later, he tweeted, “Does any government treat the champions of the country like this? What crime have we committed?” Sakshi also took to twitter to vent out her anger against the government and the Delhi Police. “This is how our champions are being treated. The world is watching us! Sexual abuser goon Brij Bhushan is sitting in the Parliament today and we are being dragged on the road. Sad day for Indian sports,” the Olympic medallist wrote.