FIR filed, Jantar Mantar cleared: Delhi police takes action against protesting wrestlers
The champion grapplers had resumed their agitation against Wresting Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on April 23, demanding his arrest for alleged sexual harassment of several women grapplers, including a minor.
In what could bring about an abrupt end to the wrestlers' protest at Jantar Mantar, the Delhi police detained Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia and later filed FIRs against them for violation of law and order, as dramatic scenes unfolded at the protest site on Sunday.
The police action against the champion players was condemned by opposition political leaders and a few sportspersons. Unprecedented scenes of police dragging the Olympic and world championships medal-winning players were witnessed when the wrestlers and their supporters breached the security cordon ahead of their march towards the new Parliament building for the planned women's 'Mahapanchayat'.
The wrestlers did not have permission to move towards the new Parliament building, hours after it was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and when they were stopped by police, an ugly scuffle broke out.
FIR against Wrestlers
The police filed FIRs against Bajrang, Sakshi and Vinesh under sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The champion grapplers had resumed their agitation against Wresting Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on April 23, demanding his arrest for alleged sexual harassment of several women grapplers, including a minor. Both Vinesh and Sakshi posted identical tweets after the police action.
"It took Delhi Police seven days to file an FIR against sexual harassment accused Brij Bhushan and not even seven hours to book wrestlers, who were protesting peacefully. Has dictatorship began in this country? The whole world is watching us! A new history is being written," they tweeted.
Chaos on a "historic day"
Wrestlers and police officers shoved and pushed each other when Vinesh, her cousin sister Sangeeta Phogat, and Sakshi tried to breach the barricades. Vinesh provided a strong resistance against her detention and Sangeeta clung on to her cousin while lying on the road as the struggle continued for a few minutes.
The police officials dragged and lifted them into buses along with several other wrestlers and their supporters. Special Commissioner of Police (law and order) Dependra Pathak had urged the wrestlers to not indulge in anti-national activities on a "historic day".
"Today is the inauguration of our new Parliament. It is an important day for our country and proud moment. So any type of agitation or march on this day is anti-national. No way Delhi Police can afford any lapse. We respect and love our athletes but can't allow any untoward incident," he said. The protesting wrestlers and their supporters were taken to different locations in the national capital.
While Bajrang was detained at a police station near Mayur Vihar, Sakshi was kept in Burari. Vinesh and Sangeeta were taken to Kalkaji before being released. After the wrestlers were pushed into buses, the police officers began clearing the protest site by removing the cots, mattresses, coolers, fans and the tarpaulin ceiling along with other belongings of the grapplers.
The Delhi Police said it will not allow the wrestlers back into the protest site. Pathak claimed the protesters ignored repeated requests and warnings and "wrestled" with police personnel who tried to stop them.
"They were out to disturb the preparations made by security agencies," the senior police officer told PTI. "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.
Protest far from over
Sakshi asserted that their protest was still alive. "Our protest is not over yet. We will resume our agitation at Jantar Mantar after being released by police. This country will not accept dictatorship but women's satyagrah," Malik tweeted.
"Never thought a day will come when we will have to fight on streets for justice after fighting on the mat for medals. This country's daughters are strong, if they can win medals on foreign soil, then definitely they will not stop until the battle on the home soil is won," Malik wrote in another tweet and posted contrasting videos of her Olympic medal ceremony and Sunday's scuffle with police.
Punia, while still in detention, tweeted, "I am still in police custody. No one is telling me what's happening. Have I committed any crime? It should be Brij Bhushan who should be in police custody not us."