New Delhi— Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik announced that the wrestlers who are protesting against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the head of the Indian Wrestling Federation, will not be partaking in the upcoming Asian Games until the issue of sexual harassment has been resolved. These remarks followed a Mahapanchayat, or grand assembly, held by the wrestlers in Sonipat, Haryana, where they engaged with various Khap leaders.
Singh has been accused by seven individuals, including a minor, of demanding sexual favors in exchange for professional assistance on at least two occasions.
Furthermore, he is alleged to have been involved in 15 other incidents of molestation and sexual harassment. Specifically, he is accused of touching the breasts and stomachs of three complainants while pretending to conduct breathing checks.
After intervention by the Supreme Court, Singh, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was charged in two cases by the Delhi Police. Since April, Malik and several other wrestlers, including Olympic and Commonwealth Games medalists, have been organizing protests demanding Singh's arrest.
According to the Hindustan Times, they assert that Singh has been pressuring them to withdraw their complaints and cease their demonstrations.
Malik states that he will not be able to exert pressure if he is in police custody. She emphasizes that "as long as he remains free, the victims will crumble one by one, and fear will continue to prevail."
The Olympic medalist further reveals that Singh pressured the parent of the young wrestler to retract the statement that she was not a minor at the time of the incident.
The minor's father previously admitted to The Hindu that he altered his account due to concerns for the safety of his "family, daughter, and myself."
According to the Hindustan Times, Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia commented on Saturday that if any misconduct had taken place with the wrestler, regardless of her age, Singh should be punished.
Punia informed the publication that they had met with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur. The wrestlers were informed that their requests would be taken into consideration by the authorities. If necessary, they would continue their protest after June 15. However, once the protest commences, none of the wrestlers will resume their official roles.
They will only return to their government positions if the protest is not continued.
Earlier this week, Thakur assured the protesters that the police investigation into the incident would be completed by June 15, and a chargesheet would be filed, as reported by The Hindu.
The Delhi Police has reportedly requested images, audio recordings, and videos to substantiate the allegations made against Singh by two female wrestlers last week, according to The Indian Express. These athletes accused Singh of touching their breasts and placing his hand on their bellies while pretending to conduct breathing checks.
The authorities provided a deadline of June 5 for the two wrestlers to present evidence.
The alleged incidents are said to have occurred between 2016 and 2019 at the Wrestling Federation of India office, which also serves as Singh's residence as an MP, as well as at international competitions.
One wrestler claimed that when she won a significant gold at an international competition, Singh embraced her for an extended period of 10 to 15 seconds. To prevent Singh from groping her, she had to keep her hand close to her breast during the hug. The police requested a photograph of the incident.
The authorities also questioned a second wrestler and her family members regarding the specifics of the alleged threatening calls they received. Additionally, a separate notice was sent to the relative, requesting videos, pictures, call recordings, and WhatsApp conversations related to the incident.
This news follows the demand made by Trinamool Congress leader Saket Gokhale on Saturday for the Delhi Police to be held accountable for bringing wrestler Sangeeta Phogat to the Wrestling Federation of India's office, allegedly in an attempt to recreate the sequence of events in a sexual harassment accusation. Reports indicate that Phogat was taken into the office while Singh was at his residence.