It has been nearly a month since India’s top Olympian wrestlers sat at the Jantar Mantar on May 23 to protest against Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual harassment.
In an extension to the protest that has surfaced the staggering condition of what India’s top athletes face on a daily basis, the Khap mahapanchayat has now decided that women who are supporting the protest will hold a panchayat right outside the new parliament building on the day it is being inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi on May 28th.
Mahila Khap Panchayat At Wrestlers Protest
On Sunday, Khap representatives across several states gathered in Rohtak to attend a mahapanchayat that extended support to the ongoing wrestlers’ protest. The mahapanchayat made four integral decisions by the end of the day. They demanded a narco test of WFI Chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Singh. They also announced a candle march that would take place on May 23 at India Gate, which also marks one whole month of the protest.
On May 7, the Centre was given an ultimatum that it should take solid action against Singh by May 20, however, there was no reaction on the same by the government authorities. Wrestler and Olympian Sakshi Malik spoke to the Khap heads about the cause at length, urging them to continue their support. She stated how it’s been a month since the dharna began, and they have met with nothing but disappointment.
On another hand, WFI Chief stated that he would be ready for a narco test provided the wrestlers Phogat and Punia take it too.
Sakshi Malik came out strong against the system that is hindering their fight against harassment. She alleged that a lot of wrestlers were stopped from attending an IPL match in Delhi on Saturday considering the protest. While Malik and her spouse Satyawart Kadiyan were present at the mahapanchayat, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia who are also torchbearers of the protest stayed back at Jantar Mantar.
Last week, several athletes even wrote to the women leaders urging them to take a stand against harassment and support them in their fight.
Ground report from the protest
Amidst ongoing protests at the Jantar Mantar, our reporter Priya Prakash reached the site to give us an on-ground report of the situation.
The current Indian Wrestlers’ protest against the alleged sexual harassment of female wrestlers by former president of the Wrestling Federation of India, BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, has become stronger as protestors have decided to continue sitting at the Jantar Mantar.
This decision comes right after the Supreme Court of India closed the proceedings on a plea seeking an FIR against MP Singh. The protesters unanimously decided to continue sitting in protest until Singh was arrested.
“What we see is shameful because the kind of treatment they are subjected to is abrupt and Instead of bestowing them with medals, they’re being dealt with violence,” said a student protestor.
It is reported that wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik faced abuse and were pushed by male police officers last evening after a physical scuffle broke out between male wrestlers and police personnel during an argument.
While the protests are going strong for all the right reasons, some sections of the cause seem to have been derailed by regional politics. What remains significant, however, is that students from across colleges, and women from different states have come to participate in the protest to stand in solidarity with the athletes and help them get justice against the atrocities they have been subjected to for years now. As we await further reporting on the situation, it’s important to note how even women who have no connection with the sport are coming forward to courageously stand up against harassment and are voicing their disappointment against the manhandling of the situation.
“I want to tell all women across the country, athletes or otherwise, to not be afraid anymore. It’s time we break our silence against such atrocities, claim our power, and, more importantly, stand up for each other.”
Given that young girls and women from across the country are extending their support to the protest, in person or in spirit, it will be important to see how the panchayat brings about a shift in the protest. It’s significant because we will see whether we can finally have the attention of the superior authorities to take pay attention to the medal-winning athletes we owe so much, but all they get is to sit in the scorching heat for a month and fight for a cause no one seems to care about.
Feature photo credit Photo credits: NDTV
Suggested reading: Our Women Wrestlers Are Fighting The Good Fight. But Why Is No One Cheering?