Business Standard

Protesting wrestlers to immerse medals in Ganga: A timeline of events

Olympic medal winners Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik and World Championships medal winner Vinesh Phogat have decided to immerse their medals in the Ganga in Haridwar

Wrestlers protest at Jantar Mantar

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik addresses a press conference during their ongoing protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi (Photo: PTI)

BS Web Team New Delhi
In an open letter addressed to the public of India, Tokyo Olympics medalist Bajrang Punia said that he alongside fellow Olympics medal winner Sakshi Malik and World Championships medal winner Vinesh Phogat will immerse their hard-earned medals in the Ganga river in Haridwar at about 6 pm on May 30, 2023.

This decision has been taken after the Delhi Police manhandled the wrestlers peacefully marching to the new Parliament on its inauguration day. The grapplers had been protesting at the Jantar Mantar against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Brijbhushan Sharan Singh since April 23.

It was during this peaceful march that the wrestlers were arrested and charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by the police. The protest site of the wrestlers at Jantar Mantar was also dismantled and police have threatened to dispel the wrestlers if they return.

But how did the peaceful sit-in which started in January this year, escalate to such levels? Here’s the timeline

January 18, 23: Wrestlers, led by Bajrang, Vinesh, and Sakshi marched to the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and started protesting with their demand that the Delhi Police must arrest WFI chief Singh. They alleged that Singh had been sexually harassing women wrestlers for years.

January 19, 2023: Ravi Dahiya, Tokyo Olympics Silver medalist, and Deepak Punia, World Championships silver medalist also joined in the protest as wrestler turned BJP leader Babita Phogat met with the protesting wrestlers, assuring them of quick action. On the same day, the wrestlers also meet Sports Minister Anurag Thakur at his residence, but no solution is found.

January 20, 2023: Indian Olympic Association President PT Usha directs the formation of a seven-member enquiry committee after the wrestlers submitted a written complaint and demanded Brijbhusan Sharan Singh’s removal from the WFI post.

January 21, 2023: After WFI submitted their internal report saying that there was no evidence found against the charges levelled at president Singh, the sports ministry asked the wrestling body to suspend all its activities immediately.

January 23, 2023: Ministry forms a five-member oversight committee headed by boxer MC Mary Kom with Olympic medalist wrestler and BJP MLA Yogeshwar Dutt a part of it.

January 31, 2023: Wrestlers allege that they were not consulted before members of the Oversight Committee (OC) were decided. Babita Phogat was included as the sixth member of the OC. The committee was given four weeks to file its report.

In February the tenure of the OC was extended by two weeks to submit their final report.

April 16, 2023: WFI announces election for the post of president on May 7, 2023. This was done after the OC submitted its report to the ministry, but decided to not make it public.

April 23, 2023: Wrestlers return to the protest site at Jantar Mantar, this time around demanding the arrest of Brijbhushan Sharan Singh. They allege Delhi Police did not register FIR against Singh and also asked the sports ministry to make public the OC report.

April 24, 2023: Sports ministry said that the absence of an Internal Complaints Committee under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act was the main issue that the OC found. It further made the WFI election null and void and asked IOA to form a panel that will make sure that the next elections happen in 45 days from the day of formation of the panel and till then the panel should run all the businesses of WFI as an ad-hoc body.  

April 25, 2023: Wrestlers move to the Supreme Court (SC) where they are represented by Congress leader Kapil Sibal who argued that FIR must be registered against Singh. The court also terms the matter involving a minor and seven girls alleging sexual harassment as serious and asked Delhi Police to file their response to the court’s query of why the FIR was not registered by Friday, April 28, 2023.

April 28, 2023: Delhi Police agrees to file FIR and SC also asks the Delhi Police commissioner to make sure that the wrestlers are not threatened by goons as alleged. Wrestlers said they will continue their protest till Singh is arrested.

May 03, 2023: After IOA forms a three-member committee and PT Usha shames wrestlers for putting out a bad image of the country, protesting wrestlers retaliate and claim that they did not receive any help from anybody in the govt, be it IOA or the sports ministry. Drunkard miscreants attack the protest site and few protesters are injured.

After the scuffle, protesting wrestlers open the stage for all, be it Opposition parties or activists or farmers, whoever wanted to support them, was welcomed at the protest site.

May 20, 2023: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Khap Panchayats of Western UP, Haryana and Rajasthan, Political party Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and Rakesh Tikait led Bharatiya Kisan Union extended support to the protesters.

May 23, 2023: On completion of one month of their protest, the wrestlers staged a candlelight march to the India Gate and announced that they won medals under the national flag and now they will seek justice under it as well.

May 28, 2023: Wrestlers decide to march to the new parliament to demand justice. They say they will march peacefully and will hand over themselves to the police if need be. However, chaos is created as the new Parliament building is inaugurated at one end and the wrestlers are manhandled by the Delhi Police at the other.

May 29, 2023: After being released by the police, Bajrang Punia posts a tweet with three images which form part of an open letter, describing his and fellow wrestlers' inability to fight against the system after being brutally attacked by it. And therefore they say that they will immerse their medals in Ganga in Haridwar and sit on a fast unto death at India Gate

Don't miss the most important news and views of the day. Get them on our Telegram channel

First Published: May 30 2023 | 5:13 PM IST

Explore News