Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, and Bajrang Punia, renowned Olympic medallists who have protested against protesting against outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, have resumed their jobs within the Railways on Monday.
After being evicted from their protest site at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, Malik and Phogat, and Bajrang Punia resumed their work on May 31, according to reports.
The development came amid reports claimed Malik has withdrawn from the wrestlers’ protest two days after meeting Amit Shah and has resumed her duties in the Railways.
Refuting the reports, Malik in a tweet said, “This news is completely wrong. In the fight for justice, none of us has backed down, nor will we. Along with Satyagraha, I am fulfilling my responsibility in Railways. Our fight continues till justice is served. Please don’t spread any wrong news.”
Bajrang also echoed and said the reports of withdrawing the FIR as “completely false”.
“The news of withdrawing the movement is just a rumour. These news are being spread to harm us. We have neither retreated nor have we withdrawn the movement. The news of women wrestlers taking back the FIR is also false. The fight will continue till justice is served,” said Bajrang.
Since April, the wrestlers had been staging a protest at Jantar Mantar, demanding the arrest of outgoing WFI chief Bhushan Sharan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment made by seven wrestlers, including one minor.
Here’s a Timeline of the Wrestler’s Protest:
18 January: A group of prominent wrestlers, including Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia, two-time world championships medallist Vinesh Phogat, and Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, gathered at Jantar Mantar and accused Singh of sexual harassment. They claimed that Singh had been engaging in such behavior with impunity for many years. Vinesh Phogat further alleged receiving death threats from officials close to Singh.
However, Brij Bhushan vehemently denies all the allegations.
In response to the accusations, the Sports Ministry took action and demanded an explanation from the WFI and instructed the body to submit its response within a timeframe of 72 hours.
January 19: Protesting wrestlers hold a meeting with officials from the Sports Ministry, however they expressed dissatisfaction with the assurances given to them. While the number of protesting wrestlers increased as more joined their cause, they asserted that they possessed evidence supporting their allegations of sexual harassment against Singh and even mentioned the possibility of filing a FIR against him.
The wrestlers visited Sports Minister Anurag Thakur’s residence for a lengthy five-hour meeting, but unfortunately, no satisfactory outcome was achieved.
20 January: In a written communication addressed to PT Usha, the President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the wrestlers called for the resignation of Brij Bhushan Singh, the establishment of an inquiry committee to investigate the matter, the dissolution of the WFI, and the appointment of a new governing body for the WFI in consultation with them.
Responding to their demands, the IOA formed a seven-member inquiry panel led by boxer MC Mary Kom, an Olympic medallist from 2012. Following discussions with Sports Minister, the wrestlers were assured that Singh would step aside from the day-to-day operations of the WFI while the investigation is underway.
21 January: the wrestlers decided to call off their protest later after they were given assurance by Sports Minister Thakur. After discussion, it was agreed the matter would be investigated by the Oversight Committee and decided that Singh would step aside from his position until the completion of the probe.
Later that day, in response to the Sports Ministry’s inquiry, WFI issued a statement denying the allegations of sexual harassment.
“Not a single allegation of sexual harassment is accepted nor has ever been noticed nor found nor so far complained nor reported to sexual harassment committee to WFI, hence allegations to that effect are equally malicious and unfounded without being any truth in the matter,” it said.
The ministry directed the WFI to suspend all ongoing activities and called for an emergency Annual General Meeting (AGM). Additionally, Assistant Secretary of WFI, Vinod Tomar, was suspended from his position.
23 January: The Sports Ministry announced members of the Oversight Committee (OC), which consisted of five members and included Olympic bronze medallist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, former Indian badminton player Trupti Murgunde, former CEO of Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) Captain Rajagopalan, and former SAI Executive Director (Teams) Radhica Sreeman.
The OC was assigned a timeframe of four weeks to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations against Singh. They were entrusted with the responsibility of managing the day-to-day affairs of the WFI during this interim period.
31 January: Babita Phogat was added as the sixth member to the Oversight Committee following the request of the protesting wrestlers. The wrestlers had expressed their dissatisfaction, stating that they were not consulted regarding the selection of panel members.
23 February: The Oversight Committee (OC) was granted a two-week extension to conclude the investigation.
16 April: Following the submission of the Oversight Committee’s report to the sports ministry, WFI announced that elections would take place on May 7. However, the ministry did not release the report to the public. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who had served three terms as president, declared that he would not run for re-election for the president’s post.
23 April: The wrestlers returned to Jantar Mantar and made fresh allegations, stating that seven female wrestlers, including a minor, had filed a sexual harassment complaint against Singh at the Connaught Place police station in Delhi two days ago. However, they claimed that the police had not yet registered an FIR.
Addressing a press conference, Malik said, “We lodged a complaint at CP police station. It has been two days, but no FIR has been registered as yet. Seven women, including a minor, have complained of sexual harassment. It makes for a POSCO case, but nothing has been done yet.”
In a POSCO case, a person can only be arrested if the complaint is lodged within 24 hours. However, in this particular case, the complaint was filed after a few years.
24 April: The Sports Ministry disclosed that one of the “major findings” in the Oversight Committee’s probe report was the absence of a duly constituted Internal Complaints Committee under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act. The ministry also declared the WFI elections as “null and void.”
The president of the IOA, PT Usha, was directed to form an ad-hoc committee that would oversee the federation elections within 45 days and manage the affairs of the WFI in the interim.
However, there was no mention regarding the demand for an FIR against Singh.
25 April: The Supreme Court agreed to hear the petition filed by the wrestlers, which sought the registration of an FIR against Brij Bhushan over allegations of sexual harassment.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud acknowledged the seriousness of the allegations raised by the wrestlers and asked the Delhi Police to respond by 28 April.
26 April: In response to the inaction by the authorities regarding their complaints, the protesting wrestlers escalated their protest. They called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Minister for Women and Child Development to intervene in the matter, urging them to address the issues.
27 April: the IOA established a three-member ad-hoc committee entrusted with managing the daily operations of the WFI and overseeing the organization’s elections within the following 45 days. The committee consists of Suma Shirur, Bhupendra Singh Bajwa, and a retired High Court judge whose name will be announced soon.
PT Usha criticises the wrestlers’ protests, asserting that taking to the streets amounted to “damaging the reputation of the country.”
29 April: Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh announced he is ‘ready to face any kind of investigation’, but won’t resign from the post.
“I am completely innocent and have full faith in Supreme Court and Delhi Police. I am ready to face any kind of investigation,” Singh told news agency PTI. “Resigning as president of the Wrestling Federation of India is not a big deal for me, but I will not resign as a criminal,” he added.
30 April: In resposne to the Jantar Mantar protests, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said in order to get justice, the police or the court must be approached.
“…You don’t get justice from Jantar Mantar. If you want justice, you have to go to the Police, Court. They never did that until now. We will accept whatever the court decides..,” he said.
May 4: The Supreme Court dismisses the plea filed by women wrestlers against Brij Bhushan and advises them to seek recourse in a lower court. In response, the protesting grapplers state “We have no faith in the Supreme Court. We will invite Khap Panchayats to join us.”
May 7: Rakesh Tikait, prominent farmer leader, lends support to the wrestlers’ cause as he joins them at Jantar Mantar.
May 23: The wrestlers organise a candlelight march, and their protest gains momentum as Khap leaders also join their cause.
May 28: Undeterred by the imposition of Section 144 in the area, the wrestlers plan to march and protest at ‘Mahapanchayat’ in front of the new Parliament building. However, the Delhi Police intervenes and detains the marching wrestlers.
Police detained protesters marching towards the new Parliament building for the ‘Mahila Samman Mahapanchayat’ called by protesting wrestlers. Protesting wrestlers jumped over the police barricading at Jantar Mantar to march towards the new Parliament building.
June 2: Khap leaders hold ‘Mahapanchayat’ in Kurukshetra and demanded the arrest of the WFI chief and threatened to picket Jantar Mantar on June 9 if their demand was not met.
June 4: Addressing a ‘Sarv Samaj Samarthan Panchayat’ in support of the wrestlers at Mundlana in Sonipat district, Punia requested speakers at the event not to announce any decision, saying grapplers will be calling a Mahapanchayat in another 3-4 days. “We will hold one Mahapanchayat and will give a call for that. We will decide the venue. We want to bring everyone together for that Panchayat, we don’t want us to be divided,” he said.
June 5: Malik and Punia reaffirmed their commitment to seeking justice, emphasizing that none of the wrestlers have retreated from the protest. They dismissed reports suggesting their withdrawal as deliberate attempts to undermine the movement. Punia stated that the news of their withdrawal is merely a “rumour,” and he refuted the false claims of women wrestlers retracting the FIR.