India’s top female wrestler arrested for protesting WFI president

Several of India’s top female wrestlers were arrested by police on Sunday, in a chaotic escalation of weeks-long protests against the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), who they allege sexual harassment.

Olympic athletes Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik were among those detained as they attempted to march towards New Delhi’s historic center, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is inaugurating the land’s controversial new Parliament building water.

According to Malik, one of India’s most famous female wrestlers, some protesters were peacefully marching in front of Parliament when they clashed with police.

Malik spoke to reporters from inside a police car before being driven away. Malik, who was later released, said: “We don’t know where they are taking us.

Delhi senior police officer Dependra Pathak told reporters on Sunday that protesters had “broken through police barriers” and were not following police instructions.

“They broke the law, and that’s why they were detained,” Pathak said. CNN has reached out to Delhi police to query charges against the wrestlers, which allegedly include rioting and disobedience to a civil servant.

The wrestlers said police had also dismantled the protesters’ makeshift camp in Jantar Mantar, although some protesters remained at the protest site late Sunday.

Dozens of wrestlers and their supporters have camped at the site since last month to call for more action against WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, whom they allege sexual harassment.

Singh, a powerful lawmaker and politician from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is a controversial figure under police investigation for alleged sexual harassment. He attended the inauguration of the new parliament, posting a picture of himself outside the building on Facebook.

He denied all allegations of sexual harassment and accused the wrestlers of playing a political game, accusing opposition parties of being behind the protests without providing evidence to that claim.

After his release late Sunday, Olympic athlete Phogat twice said democracy was being “killed” at Jantar Mantar, even as Modi inaugurated the new parliament building.

“On the one hand, the Prime Minister inaugurated the new democracy building. On the other hand, our arrests are still going on,” said the athlete, a member of one of India’s most famous wrestling families.


The allegations against Singh first came to light in January, when several top wrestlers demanded an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by young athletes against him.

In a letter to the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and shared on Twitter, the top five wrestlers said they wanted to create a “safe and secure place” for young wrestlers, especially are female athletes.

Soon after the letter was made public, Phogat and others took to the streets, demanding Singh’s dismissal. At the time, WFI denied the allegations but said an investigation was underway.

India’s sports ministry said it would review the complaints and Singh was asked to step down within weeks. As a result, the wrestlers stopped protesting, but more than three months later, they say there hasn’t been enough action yet.

In April, following protests and intervention by the country’s Supreme Court, Delhi police registered two cases against Singh, including allegations of sexual harassment of minors.

In a tweet on SundayMalik points to the alleged double standard of the police.

“It took 7 days for Delhi Police to register (case) against Brij Bhushan… not even 7 hours to register (case) against us for peacefully protesting,” she wrote. “Did dictatorship begin in this country? The whole world is watching how the government treats its players.”


While India’s top female athletes are clashing with police in the streets, Mr. Modi is inaugurating the country’s new parliament building in New Delhi as part of a project to renovate the historic center history of the $2.4 billion capital city that his critics call a “vanity project.”

To keep his place as a leader intent on erasing any vestiges of India’s colonial past and solidifying it as the “mother of democracy”, Modi gave a lively speech from inside the building.

“This is a temple of our democracy that delivers the message of India’s solution to the world,” he said. “As India moves forward, the world moves forward.”

But the opening has become a flashpoint in the ongoing political and cultural war between Modi and his rivals.

Last week, 19 political parties announced they would boycott the opening ceremony, protesting Mr. Modi’s decision to inaugurate the parliament building himself, rather than letting the President and head of state, Droupadi Murmu, presided over the ceremony.

Some politicians have also questioned the government’s choice of an inauguration date, which falls on the birthday of the late Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a leading figure in India’s Hindu nationalist movement. .

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) views him as a hero, while its opponents say Savarkar’s ideology discriminates against minorities.

The new triangular parliament building is part of an overhaul of New Delhi’s colonial administrative center dubbed the Central Vista Redevelopment Project. Since it was announced in September 2019, the plan has drawn criticism from politicians, architects and heritage experts over the cost and time it took to build.

Many critics of Modi voiced their support for the protest wrestlers after news of their detention emerged.

“Even while protesting in front of Parliament, which is seen as a symbol of justice and truth, our wrestlers were mistreated and treated harshly instead of justice,” said DK Shivakumar, Deputy Prime Minister the state of Karnataka, southern India, said. wrote on Twitter.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, general secretary of India’s opposition Congress Party, called the detention of wrestlers “totally wrong”. in a Sunday tweet.

She wrote: “The arrogance of the BJP government has grown to the point that the government is mercilessly trampling the voices of our female players under their boots. “The whole country is watching this government arrogance and injustice.”

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