Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia as well as Asian Games champion Vinesh Phogat were served with showcause notices by their employer, Northern Railway, on May 27 and asked to resume their duties.
Malik reported for work on May 31 at her Baroda House office in New Delhi, and Punia and Phogat too followed suit. All three hold the rank of officer on special duty.
Each of them on Monday dismissed media reports that claimed their resumption of duties signalled a pullout from the protest, saying such “fake news” was aimed at harming their movement. Phogat and Punia said the wrestlers would not hesitate to quit their job if it came in the way of their battle for justice, and warned against any attempt to "blackmail" them with their jobs.
The showcause notices were issued a day before the wrestlers, protesting alleged sexual harassment by their federation chief and BJP parliamentarian Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, were roughed up by police at Jantar Mantar before being detained and booked on rioting charges.
A source close to the wrestlers said the trio had been advised to resume work since the battle would now be fought in court. “The wrestlers understood that they should return to normal life. The real fight will be in court,” the source told The Telegraph.
Malik, in a Hindi tweet, said the reports about the trio withdrawing from the protest were “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 the railways. Our fight will continue till justice has been served. Please don't spread any false news," she wrote.
Punia wrote, in Hindi, on Instagram: "This news is being spread to harm us. We have neither retreated nor have we withdrawn from the movement. The news about women wrestlers taking back the FIR is false, too. The fight will continue till justice has been served.”
An upset Phogat tweeted: “Do those who spread fake news even realise the trauma that the women wrestlers are going through? It’s the weak media, not a female wrestler, whose legs start trembling in front of a goon’s hunter.”
Phogat quoted a verse from Urdu poet Aabid Adeeb: “Jahan pohonch ke kadam dagmagaye hain sab ke usi mukam se ab apna raasta hoga (Where everyone’s steps have wavered to reach, from the same place we will now make our way).”
In another tweet, Phogat said: “Those who said our medals were worth Rs 15 each are now after our jobs.”
She added: “Our life is at stake, a job is a very small thing before that. If the job is seen to be an obstacle in the way of justice, we will not take even 10 seconds to leave it. Do not blackmail us by threatening us with our jobs.”
Malik posted a similar tweet.
The source who spoke to this newspaper said: “Yes, the protest movement is on. Just because they have joined office doesn’t mean the protest has lost steam.”
Malik denied a report that the minor wrestler — who had with six of her adult peers lodged complaints of sexual harassment against Singh — had withdrawn her FIR. “This is a game to alienate us from the public,” she told reporters in Delhi.
The trio had met Union home minister Amit Shah at his residence on Saturday night. “It was a normal conversation. No final solution has emerged. Our stance will remain the same: arrest the accused,” Malik told reporters in Delhi. “Vinesh, Bajrang and I are together in this fight and till we get justice, we will remain united.”
Another source close to the wrestlers told this newspaper: “They are talking to khap panchayat leaders, with whose consent they have rejoined their respective duties after being showcaused. The khaps are planning the future course of action.”
A khap meeting at Kurukshetra on June 2 had issued an ultimatum to the Modi government asking it to arrest Singh by June 9.
Singh denies all the allegations against him.