Protesting Olympian wrestlers detained after scuffle with Delhi police - GulfToday

Protesting Olympian wrestlers detained after scuffle with Delhi police


Sangeeta Phogat (L) and Vinesh Phogat (C) are detained by the police during a protest against Brij Bhushan Singh, the wrestling federation chief, in New Delhi on Sunday. AFP

Indian police dragged away and detained on Sunday two Olympic wrestlers and dozens of others as they tried to march to parliament demanding the arrest of the sport's federation chief over allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation.

In an escalation of the month-old standoff, police also cleared the site in central New Delhi where the wrestlers have been camped out while calling for the arrest of Brij Bhushan Singh, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

The wrestlers attempted to march to India's new parliament on Sunday just as it was being inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but they were halted by some of the hundreds of police on duty for the event.

Among those detained by police and hauled away into buses were Olympic bronze medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia. One video posted on social media by Malik showed police dragging away screaming protesters.

"The goon who sexually exploits, Brij Bhushan, is sitting in Parliament and we are being dragged on the road. Sad day for Indian sports," Malik tweeted.

Modi-parliament-opening Sakshi Malik is detained by the police while attempting to march to new parliament, just as it was being inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi, in New Delhi. AFP

Broadcaster NDTV quoted a senior police official who said "all protesters were detained and forcefully boarded in buses" because they had "violated law and order."

Police also removed tents and other items from the site where the protesters have been camped out, the AFP journalist said.

Opposition politicians condemned the police actions. "Strongly condemn the way Delhi Police manhandled Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and other wrestlers. It's shameful our champions are treated in this manner," opposition politician Mamata Banerjee tweeted, calling for their release.

Despite the increased security, the wrestlers remained adamant about going forward with their protest.

The tension escalated when the wrestlers, led by Vinesh Phogat and her cousin sister Sangeeta Phogat, attempted to breach the security barricades. The clash was followed by shoving and pushing between the protesters and police officers.

“All protesters were detained and forcefully boarded in buses by Police,” said Dependra Pathak, Special Commissioner of Police, Law and Order.

The athletes had planned a ‘Mahila Samman Mahapanchayat’ (a women’s large assembly) as part of their ongoing protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Singh, a member of the ruling BJP, has been accused by the wrestlers of sexually harassing several female athletes.

These allegations have stirred a nationwide controversy, leading to widespread protests demanding his arrest.

The protesting athletes, which include Olympic medallists and Asian Games gold winners, have been unwavering in their demand for Mr Singh’s arrest.

The use of force by the police, they insisted, would not deter them from carrying on with their peaceful protest and assembly.

Khap leaders were detained from Rohtak, Bhiwani, Hisar, Jind and other parts of the state. Binain khap leaders were detained from Narwana railway station in Jind.


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