Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the wrestling boss accused of sexually harassing women grapplers, has said he will address a rally in Ayodhya on Monday “with the blessings of the sadhus”.
His objective seemed to be to signal that he had the support of the sadhus of Ayodhya, an influential group in today’s India, on a day the powerful khaps of western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana rallied behind the protesting wrestlers in a big way.
Singh, BJP Lok Sabha member from Kaisarganj in Uttar Pradesh and Wrestling Federation of India president, said the rally would seek to pressure the government into amending the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act to prevent its “misuse”.
Singh faces charges under the Pocso Act — apart from the Indian Penal Code — since one of the seven wrestlers who have accused him of sexual harassment is a minor.
“There is rampant misuse of the act across the country. We urgently need to amend it. We will hold a jan chetna (awareness) rally at Ram Katha Park in (Ayodhya) town on June 5 to get the government to heed my demand,” Singh told reporters in Ayodhya on Thursday.
The MP met several sadhus in the town on Thursday and inaugurated a new building at the Laxman Quila Mandir, set on the Saryu’s banks.
Maithili Raman Sharan, head of the temple, said: “Brij Bhushan is a religious person and has the support of the sadhus of Ayodhya. He has been unnecessarily dragged into a controversy.”
Singh also met Acharya Maithili Nandan Sharan, head of the Hanumant Sadan Mandir. Sources said Singh, whose constituency adjoins Ayodhya, has been making donations to temples there for years and has deep links with the town.
Balakram Das, a sadhu from Hanuman Garhi, said: “An allegation under the Pocso Act can be a permanent blot on a person’s life even if the charges are not proved in court. This is why we want the government to look at the act afresh and make some changes.”
Singh was a wrestler in the past and used to practise at the Hanuman Garhi akhara.
The MP has not clarified exactly what changes to the act he wants.
Sanjay Shukla, a BJP leader from Ayodhya, said: “The party has nothing to do with the June 5 rally. It has been called by the sadhus.”
On Wednesday, Singh had held a rally in Barabanki that attracted 10,000 people, implying he had covert support from some powerful organisation or community.
At the Barabanki rally, Singh said he would hang himself if the allegations were proved.