The Samyukta Kisan Morcha on Wednesday announced nationwide protests on June 1 and June 5 in support of the wrestlers who have been demanding the arrest of BJP parliamentarian and Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for allegedly sexually harassing them.
The Morcha, an amalgamation of farm unions that had led the successful protest against the Centre’s three controversial farm laws, said in a statement on Wednesday: “In light of the cruelty of the Modi government towards women wrestlers, the SKM held an urgent meeting today and took note of the government’s apathy towards the wrestlers protesting against sexual harassment and its attempt to protect BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.”
The statement said the Morcha would organise protests on June 1 and June 5.
A memorandum will be submitted to the President, requesting issuing of directions to allow the wrestlers to continue their protest at Jantar Mantar and for the arrest of Brij Bhushan, it added.
On Tuesday, Bharatiya Kisan Union president Naresh Tikait had dissuaded the protesting wrestlers — Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia and World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat — from throwing their medals into the Ganga in Haridwar, which they had decided to do in disgust saying the government used their badges of honour “as a mask for its own publicity campaign”.
The decision to immerse the medals was taken after Delhi police on Sunday roughed up several of the protesting wrestlers including Malik, Punia and Phogat, pinning some of them to the ground before dragging them away and detaining them while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was inaugurating the new Parliament building.
The police also dismantled their protest site at Jantar Mantar.
The wrestlers criticised the Prime Minister and President Droupadi Murmu for failing to show concern for their plight or act against Brij Bhushan.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday condemned the manner in which the protesting wrestlers were treated by Delhi police, issuing a statement a day after United World Wrestling had criticised the police action.
“The treatment of the Indian wrestling athletes over the weekend was very disturbing. The IOC insists that the allegations by the wrestlers are followed up on by an unbiased, criminal investigation in line with local law,” the IOC said in the statement.
“We understand that a first step towards such a criminal investigation has been made, but more steps have to follow before concrete actions become visible. We urge that the safety and wellbeing of these athletes is duly considered throughout this process and that this investigation will be speedily concluded,” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) statement said.
The IOC asked the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to take necessary action “to protect the athletes”.
Amid mounting criticism of the Narendra Modi government’s failure to reach out to the protesting wrestlers, sports minister Anurag Thakur on Wednesday asked them to “be patient”.
“I urge the wrestlers to be patient till the outcome of the investigation. I also urge them not to take any step that could undermine sports or hurt any sportsperson,” Thakur said, in response to questions from journalists.
On Tuesday, Tikait had reached Haridwar and asked them to defer their decision and gave an ultimatum to the Centre to act on the wrestlers’ demand to arrest Brij Bhushan within five days.
Khap panchayats in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and elsewhere have said they will intensify the protests they are holding in support of the wrestlers.
Shyam Singh, chief of the Gathwal Khap, said in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar on Wednesday: “The players are fighters and will continue their struggle against the criminals. The khap panchayats and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha have decided to intensify the protests in support of the players if Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is not arrested soon.
“We have convened a meeting of the khaps at Soram Chaupal on Thursday to plan a strategy to make the Centre bow before the demand of the wrestlers and arrest the molester president of the WFI.”
Brij Bhushan dug in his heels on Wednesday and told a rally in Barabanki: “The wrestlers are playing an emotional drama, but I shall not be hanged just because they want to immerse their medals in the Ganga.”