A “khap mahapanchayat” held here on Friday demanded the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and said if the demand is not met, farmers will take the protesting wrestlers to Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on June 9.
The Delhi Police cleared the site of the wrestlers’ over-month-long sit-in at Jantar Mantar on May 28 and detained them after a scuffle with security personnel who tried to stop them from marching to the new Parliament building as it was being inaugurated.
Subsequently, wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia along with other protesters were booked for rioting and obstructing public servant in discharge of duty.
The “khap mahapanchayat” deliberated on the next steps to be taken in the agitation pertaining to the wrestlers’ issue and set the deadline of June 9 for the government to act on its demand.
Talking to reporters after the “mahapanchayat”, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said WFI chief Singh, who has been accused of sexually harassing some women wrestlers, should be arrested and the cases against the wrestlers registered recently should be withdrawn.
He said if the government does not act on the demands, the agitation will be intensified by holding panchayats across the country.
“Arrest (of WFI chief) and withdrawal of cases (against the wrestlers) will be first priority,” he said.
“They (govt) should resolve this matter by way of talks. He (WFI chief) must be arrested, otherwise we shall take these children (wrestlers) to Jantar Mantar on June 9. That is the decision that we have taken (in the mahapanchayat)… Otherwise, we shall hold panchayats across the country,” he said.
Tikait said they shall also meet the home minister and the government and added all khaps are united on this.
Representatives of various khaps and farmers’ outfits reached the Jat Dharamshala here from different places, including Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Farmer outfits had held a “khap mahapanchayat” in Uttar Pradesh and a series of protests in Punjab and Haryana on Thursday, showing solidarity with the wrestlers who have accused Singh of sexually harassing female grapplers, including a minor.
“Today is June 2. The government has time till June 9. They can opt for the path of holding talks. We have also spoken with the wrestlers, they are totally demoralised. We would not compromise on anything less than his arrest. The country and the society will not accept anything less than (WFI chief’s) arrest.
“And till his arrest, if anything untoward happens with these children (wrestlers), it would be his responsibility…their (wrestlers’) families are also terrified, they are getting threat calls. Their security cover should be enhanced,” he said.
He said when the farmers’ agitation against the now-repealed farm laws was going on, “panchayats were held in the entire country and the government had to bow down”.
“Now also, we will be holding panchayats across the country like we did at that time. The entire country is with wrestlers on this issue.
“We are demanding his arrest. We have to prepare for agitation. A big panchayat will be called in Shamli on June 11 followed by more panchayats from June 15-18 in Haridwar. If nothing happens even till then, then panchayats will continue across the country,” Tikait said.
He said people will also confront their leaders in villages and other places and ask them questions in the matter.
“The agitation should be held in a peaceful manner,” he said.
Earlier, during the mahapanchayat, some noisy scenes were witnessed and there was a minor scuffle among some members attending the event. The incident happened when some members attending the event demanded that those speaking at the event should confine themselves to today’s core issue only and not digress.
Tikait said khap panchayat is not alone in this struggle, but representatives of various castes and communities are supporting the cause of the country’s daughters. “Society never loses, society wins,” he said. Tikait said the wrestlers are the country’s pride and all they are demanding is justice in the case.
He said the government will have to “bow down” in front of the genuine demands of the protesting wrestlers.
Tikait said even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has condemned the manner in which the protesting wrestlers were treated by the Delhi Police over the weekend, describing it as “very disturbing”.
Olympic and World Championship medal-winning wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sangeeta Phogat are among those protesting against the outgoing WFI chief, who accused them on Thursday of changing their demands.
The wrestlers travelled to Haridwar on Tuesday, after announcing that they will immerse their medals in the Ganga. They were persuaded by khap and farmer leaders not to do so. The leaders sought five days’ time from the wrestlers to address their grievances.
The Delhi Police has filed two FIRs against Singh based on the wrestlers’ complaints. One of those relates to the allegations levelled by a minor wrestler and has been registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)