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Wrestlers Protest: Delayed Justice Is Denied Justice

For days, several wrestlers have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is accused of sexual harassment of seven players, including a minor. After much dilly-dallying, FIRs were finally lodged in the case, but here’s why the victims may never get justice.

By Pavitra Utgikar
New Update


“They have been continuously changing their statements. If you listen to their old statements, you will know that they wanted me to resign from my post as the WFI chief in January. At that time, I said that resignation meant accepting the charges levelled against me. My tenure has almost come to an end. In 45 days, there will be an election, and my term will end. Resignation is not a big deal, but I will not resign as a criminal… There has been a conspiracy against me by “one family” and “one akhada”... I am innocent,” said Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the Wrestling Federation of India chief.

Jagmati Sangwan, Bhim Awardee and a former volleyball player speaks to The Probe’s Pavitra Utgikar.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been in the thick of controversy since January this year when Olympians and international wrestlers like Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik and several others protested against him, accusing him of sexual harassment of female wrestlers. The wrestlers disbanded their protests for a brief period but soon resumed them in April after the government failed to act on their complaint.

“The media itself calls him and hails him as Bahubali. That is the kind of power this man wields,” says Jagmati Sangwan, a Bhim Awardee and a former volleyball player. Brij Bhushan has always been controversial and has over 40 FIRs registered against him. He is known for his connection with the underworld. In 1992, he was charged under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) for helping underworld don Dawood Ibrahim to organise the JJ Hospital Shootout, where Dawood avenged the murder of his brother-in-law Ismail Parkar.

Last year, he was seen confessing to a digital news portal that he had murdered a person who had shot dead one of his close friends. His controversial background and the fact that he is a sitting BJP MP and the President of the Wrestling Federation of India makes him wield a strong influence amongst the people that matter in political and sporting circles.

“Our FIR was not getting registered at the first instance. We have been protesting for justice. Can you believe that we have been protesting for so long, and not once have we heard from the sports ministry? The Oversight Committee has submitted its report. But we don’t really know what will come out of it. The truth is that the allegations are so grave that we had to bring the girls to the police station and make them give their complaints, narrating what happened to each of them,” said Vinesh Phogat speaking to The Probe. Vinesh was the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games.

After much dilly-dallying, the Delhi police finally registered two FIRs against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on Friday night. This after the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, ordered the Delhi Police to register an FIR in the matter based on the complaints lodged by the wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar. Following the court’s orders, the police registered the first FIR under the POCSO Act along with relevant sections of the IPC based on the allegations of the minor. According to DCP Pranav Tanyal, the second FIR was registered for carrying out a comprehensive investigation based on the complaints given by the other complainants about outraging the women’s modesty.

The protesters have been vocal about inaction from the Delhi Police. On Friday, in a late-night video message, Bajrang Punia complained that the Delhi Police disconnected the electricity and water supply at the protest site in Jantar Mantar. Punia said that the police had erected barricades and prevented the protesters' food and water access. Punia is the only Indian wrestler to win four medals at the World Wrestling Championships.

The Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs on January 23 had appointed a six-member Oversight Committee headed by Olympic medalist MC Mary Kom to probe the allegations against the WFI chief. According to a media report, one of the members of the Oversight Committee had raised objections to the manner in which the report was compiled and is believed to have signed the final report with objections.

“What are the Oversight Committees’ findings? Journalists may be aware of it, but as far as we know, the Oversight Committee has not done justice to the victims. They are keeping us players in the dark. We know that one of the committee members objected to the Committee’s evidence-collection methods. The member shared that even the documents submitted by the witnesses and the statements of the witnesses were not shared with the members of the Committee. Brij Bhushan came and recorded his statement when there was no lawyer. The law mandates that the statement in such cases must be recorded in the presence of a lawyer. But lawyers were present when the victim’s statements were recorded,” stated Punia.

The Oversight Committee has submitted its report to the sports ministry. The Delhi Police has also been issued a copy of the Committee’s report. Reports indicate that the Committee has not reached any conclusion regarding the allegations levelled against the WFI chief.

“We have waited for more than two and half months, but the wheels of justice are not moving. We really don’t know who is pressuring whom. We are not interested in politics. We are players. We are sitting in protest for justice for the victims and justice for sports,” said Sakshi Malik, India’s first female wrestler who won a medal at the Olympics.

The wrestlers sitting in protest have told The Probe that they fear for their lives as the man in question is too powerful. “This man is mighty. If the police don’t act against him, we will not be in a position to even stop our protests because all our lives are in danger. He is a powerful man, and he can harm us,” stated wrestler Sangeeta Phogat.

The wrestlers also told The Probe that heavy pressure is being mounted on the victim’s families to withdraw the complaint against the WFI chief. “It is hard to even talk about the kind of influence and power that is being exerted on the police. While that may be just one thing, even the victims are being harassed. Many goons are visiting the families of the victims and are demanding them to withdraw the case against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh,” said Ajai, a wrestler from Kharkhoda in Sonipat in Haryana.