New Delhi: Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Wednesday asked protesting wrestlers not to take any step that could undermine sports or hurt players and said they should wait for the probe to complete, even as political parties stepped up an attack on the government over the issue. Delhi Police said the cases filed by women wrestlers are still under consideration and status reports are being filed before the court. It would be against the procedure to say anything before the report is submitted to court, the police said after it deleted three tweets on the case.
A day after the wrestlers, who are demanding the arrest of former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment of grapplers, threatened to immerse their medals in river Ganga, Thakur urged them to be patient and have faith in the Supreme Court, the Sports Ministry and Delhi police.
He promised appropriate action once the probe is completed and also said that the WFI will hold elections and a new body will be elected soon.
The government drew more flak over the issue from the Opposition with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee joining a protest in Kolkata against the alleged manhandling of wrestlers at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Sunday. The Congress too lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking why he did not appeal to the protesting wrestlers to not throw their medals in the Ganga.
The wrestlers, except Sakshi Malik, returned to their homes in Haryana and did not speak with the waiting media in Haridwar due to a “silence vow” on Wednesday.
The wrestlers, who were protesting at Jantar Mantar here since April 23, were removed from the site by the police on Sunday after they tried to march towards the new Parliament building following its inauguration.
“I urge the wrestlers to be patient till the outcome of the investigation. I also urge them not to take any step that could undermine sports or hurt any sportsperson,” Thakur said while replying to queries from reporters.
He stressed that his ministry had acted promptly on the wrestlers’ complaint and appropriate action would be taken once the probe is completed.
The WFI president has stepped aside and a committee of administrators set up by the Indian Olympic Association is taking everyday decisions, Thakur said.
Delhi police said the sexual harassment case against Singh is under consideration and the status report of the investigation will be submitted to court.
Early during the day, police sources said the force had not found sufficient evidence in favour of the allegations levelled against Singh by female wrestlers and that it will submit the report within 15 days.
As the news came out in the media, the Delhi Police took to Twitter to say: “It is clarified that this news is wrong and the investigation into this sensitive case is under progress with all sensitivity.” A public relation officer of the Delhi Police also shared the same message with reporters. After nearly an hour, the Delhi Police deleted its tweet. The PRO also removed the message she had shared in the official WhatsApp group for reporters.
Later, the PRO put another message in Hindi that read: “The cases filed by women wrestlers are still under consideration. Status reports are being filed before the court regarding the investigation in the said cases.
“As the cases are under investigation, it would be against the procedure to say anything before the report is filed in the court,” the message read.
Addressing a programme in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said that he will hang himself even if a single allegation is proved against him.
The BJP MP also said all wrestlers are like his children and he will not blame them as his blood and sweat have also gone into their success.
“I am once again saying that if even if a single allegation is proved against me, I will hang myself,” Singh said while addressing a programme at the Mahadeva auditorium in the Ramnagar area here.
“It has been four months since they (wrestlers) want me to be hanged, but the government is not hanging me. So they were going to immerse their medals in the Ganga. Brij Bhushan will not be hanged by throwing medals in the Ganga. If you have proof, give it to the court and if the court hangs me, I will accept it,” the member of Parliament from Kaiserganj said.
Holding a placard with the message “We Want Justice” written on it, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee participated in the rally in Kolkata support of wrestlers that started at Hazra Road crossing in the southern part of the city and culminated at Rabindra Sadan, the cultural hub of the eastern metropolis.
Banerjee joined the 2.8-km rally at Bhabanipur, her own constituency.
She was flanked by former women footballers Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar and Shanti Mallick, ex-soccer players Alvito D’Cunha, Rahim Nabi, and Dipendu Biswas and several other sports personalities and common people.
The Congress attacked the BJP, saying the slogan of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ now means ‘Beti BJP ke netaon se bachao (save daughters from BJP leaders)’ .
Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia and Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat had gone to Har ki Pauri to protest the inaction against 66-year-old Singh.
Addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters, Congress MP Deepender Hooda said, “These medals are their life, they represent their struggle, their families’ sacrifices and the nation’s pride. What kind of a cruel government is this? We want to ask the prime minister and government as to why they did not even urge the wrestlers not to throw their medals.” “The prime minister and ministers, who used to queue up to get photographs with these sportspersons when they won medals, did not even issue an appeal. It sent a message that they are not only anti-sportspersons but also anti-medals,” the Congress leader from Haryana said.
“You talk of Uniform Civil Code, will that not be applicable to BJP leaders. Is there a separate law for them,” Hooda asked.
Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the way protesting Indian wrestlers were treated by Delhi Police over the weekend was “very disturbing” and said allegations by the wrestlers should be followed up on by an unbiased, criminal investigation.
The IOC’s reaction follows the United World Wrestling’s (UWW) criticism of the detention of the grapplers during their protest at Jantar Mantar, in which the sport’s world body threatened to suspend the national federation if it fails to hold its election within the stipulated time.
“The treatment of the Indian wrestling athletes over the weekend was very disturbing. The IOC insists that the allegations by the wrestlers are followed up on by an unbiased, criminal investigation in line with local law,” the IOC said in the statement.
“We understand that a first step towards such a criminal investigation has been made, but more steps have to follow before concrete actions become visible. We urge that the safety and well-being of these athletes are duly considered throughout this process and that this investigation will be speedily concluded.”
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