Wrestlers Protest: Delhi police personnel were seen manhandling Olympians and Commonwealth Games champions in the national capital yesterday during their protest march.
New Delhi: A day after filing cases against protesting wrestlers, accusing them of rioting, the Delhi Police today said the protesters yesterday broke the law in a frenzy despite repeated requests, which is why their protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, Delhi’s designated protest site, was stopped. The sit-in protest by the elite grapplers was going on smoothly so far, they said. The wrestlers have refuted the charge that they were rioting, or indulged in any violence.
“If the wrestlers apply for permission to stage a sit-in again in the future, they will be allowed at any of the suitable, notified places other than Jantar Mantar,” the Deputy Commissioner of Police, New Delhi, tweeted in Hindi.
Delhi police personnel were seen manhandling Olympians and Commonwealth Games champions in the national capital yesterday during their protest march to the new parliament. Shocked social media users across the country said it was ironic that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was inaugurating the new parliament building, calling it the temple of democracy, barely two km away from where the Delhi police, which is under the Centre’s control, was seen cracking down on India’s top women athletes.
The wrestlers have been accused of rioting, unlawful assembly and obstructing public servants from doing their duty. All wrestlers participating in the protest, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshee Malikkh, and Bajrang Punia, have been named in the case.
“Everything is visible in the video. When there are 20–30 constables stopping one wrestler, how can we do any sort of riots? We were just trying to tell them that please don’t take us away. We just want to do a peaceful march because nobody is listening to us, but they forcefully dragged us inside the bus. We got scratches because of that. We didn’t do any riot, we didn’t damage any public property. We neither pulled nor pushed the barricading. We are doing our peaceful protest from day one, and we were requesting them to let us go, but we were not allowed to go,” Olympic medallist wrestler Sakshee Malikkh told news agency ANI.
Videos from the spot showed the champions being shoved, pushed, pinned down to the ground and dragged into buses — triggering outrage across the country. The tension escalated when the wrestlers, led by Vinesh Phogat and her cousin Sangeeta Phogat, attempted to breach the security barricades set up by the police.
Soon after, the Delhi Police cleared the site of their over-month-long sit-in at Jantar Mantar and said they would not be allowed to return there.
The police said 700 people were detained across the national capital. As many as 109 protesters, including the three wrestlers, were detained at Jantar Mantar. Women detainees were released later in the evening.
The athletes had planned a women’s assembly near the new parliament as part of their protest against BJP MP and chief of the country’s wrestling federation Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him of sexually harassing several women wrestlers, including a minor. They have demanded his removal as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India, and a speedy trial on their police case.
Irate social media users also shared Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s picture from the new parliament inauguration event alongside the wrestlers being dragged by the police around the same time.
Wrestler Sakshee Malikkh criticised those behind morphed photos of wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sangeeta Phogat smiling in a vehicle after they were pushed inside the bus.
“You must have seen how badly our pictures are edited on social media. Those who are doing such things have no shame. I can’t believe how God can make such human beings. They are trying to show that we are enjoying and smiling around. I don’t think that they have a heart. They are heartless people. It feels terrible how IT cell is trying to defame us,” said Sakshi Malik.
Earlier this month, the ace wrestlers alleged that a group of drunk Delhi Police personnel targeted them when they wanted to bring in mattresses to sleep on a rainy day. The policemen beat them up and abused the women wrestlers, they had said.
Several grapplers were hit on the head and two of them sustained injuries. One person had to be taken to the hospital.