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Wrestlers issue Asian Games warning to govt, threaten to pull out of tournament

Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat to participate 'only when all the issues are resolved'

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui New Delhi Published 11.06.23, 05:03 AM
Wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik at the khap mahapanchayat in Sonipat on Saturday.

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik at the khap mahapanchayat in Sonipat on Saturday. PTI

Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik on Saturday said she and fellow wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat would participate in the Asian Games “only when all the issues are resolved”.

All three have, with many other wrestlers, been demanding the immediate arrest of Wrestling Federation of India president and BJP parliamentarian Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accused of sexually harassing seven wrestlers including a minor.


“We will participate in the Asian Games only when all the issues are resolved. You can’t understand what we are going through mentally with each passing day,” Malik told reporters at a khap mahapanchayat held in support of the wrestlers in Sonipat, Haryana.

The next Asian Games are scheduled in Hangzou, China, from September 23 to October 8 this year. Punia is an Olympic medallist while Phogat is a World Championships medallist.

Malik had earlier in the day told NDTV that “there is huge pressure on us to compromise”.

On Thursday, Phogat had in a tweet alleged an “atmosphere of fear and intimidation”.

At the mahapanchayat, attended by farmer leaders from Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, Punia accused Singh of trying to “break” the wrestlers and intimidating the father of the minor wrestler.

The minor wrestler’s father recently withdrew the complaint against the MP saying it was false and had been filed in anger at Singh for discriminating against his daughter.

However, the father was quoted by The Hindu newspaper as saying he had been threatened by people whose names he could not reveal and that his family was “living in intense fear”.

“The father of the minor wrestler is being intimidated by the aides of Brij Bhushan Singh. They are trying to break the other wrestlers too. This is the reason we are demanding his immediate arrest,” Punia said.

He said the wrestlers would plan their future course of action after June 15.

On Wednesday, the wrestlers had decided to halt their protest for a week after sports minister Anurag Thakur assured them that the police would complete their probe by June 15 and file a chargesheet.

“We don’t trust the police’s investigation,” Punia said, adding that the entire system was shielding Singh.

Singh, 66, has denied all the allegations against him.

Singh was in 1993 charged by the CBI, under the now-revoked anti-terror law Tada, with harbouring terrorists belonging to Dawood Ibrahim’s gang. He was arrested but acquitted on trial. Singh has faced various criminal charges including those of attempt to murder, mostly in Uttar Pradesh, but has been acquitted in most of the cases.

Malik on Saturday said the wrestlers had since day one been demanding Singh’s arrest and his custodial interrogation since he was powerful enough to influence and derail the investigation and intimidate the complainants and witnesses.

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