Protesting wrestlers manhandled by drunk Delhi police officer at night, supporters and journalists detained

Supreme Court closes proceedings even as Sr. Adv. Hooda mentions the hardships being faced by the protesters, asks them to approach jurisdictional courts

For a country that claims to support women empowerment, that has had a rich history of women led movements and resistance, the current heart breaking state of affairs with how India’s champion women wrestlers protest is being handled by authorities and police officers reflects a stark and contradictory reality. Over the past 10 days, the women wrestlers of India have been staging a protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, against the Wrestlers Federation of India chief, Brij Bhusan Singh, alleging him of sexual harassment. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is also a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Uttar Pradesh.

Only last week, on April 28, the Delhi Police had told the Supreme Court that they will be filing an FIR based on the sexual harassment charges being levied by seven women wrestlers, including a minor, against the WFI chief. It is important to note here, the protesting wrestlers had to move to the Supreme Court seeking the registration of FIRs against Singh. While the said move by the Delhi police only after the women had approached the Supreme Court, was still seen as a ray of hope, the hardships, there has been no let up for the protesting women champions against the impunity enjoyed by a politically influential man in authority.

On May 3, late-night trouble erupted for women champions who have been camping here day and night, at Jantar Mantar. India’s women champion wrestlers were reportedly abused by Delhi Police officers. Several videos of the wrestlers have gone viral on social media, showing them being surrounded by a couple of cops who misbehaved with them. It is even claimed that male police officer pushed women wrestlers without any women officer being present and that two protestors have even been injured. A drunk cop, according to the wrestlers, misbehaved with them, hurled abuse at female wrestlers, and even manhandled them at the protest site. The wrestlers went live on their respective social media accounts to report the incident.

According to the wrestlers, the Delhi Police had physically stopped them from replacing mattresses that got wet due to rain, resulting in the scuffle. “The mattresses got wet due to rain, so we were bringing folding beds for sleeping, but the police did not allow that. Drunk policeman Dharmendra abused Vinesh Phogat and got involved in a scuffle with us,” former wrestler Rajveer told PTI.

In one of the videos, Vinesh Phogat stated that the officers of the Delhi Police hit her brother on the forehead and that he was taken to the hospital for treatment. According to the wrestlers, two of them (Dushyant and Rahul) were injured on their foreheads during the commotion. According to Bajrang Punia, who has been supporting the women wrestlers in their fight since the beginning and has been a part of this protest, this whole commotion occurred as some female wrestlers attempted to bring cots to the protest site due to inclement weather in Delhi, but cops refused to let them. It was alleged by Vinesh that when they brought the planks and foldable beds, a lone drunk male policeman, “Dharmendra”, started pushing the wrestlers around, without any female policeman present.

While addressing media persons late at night, Vinesh said, “We went to collect some cots from our vehicles as it’s all wet out here. Some cops stopped us and started troubling us. There was no female cop nearby and these male cops started pushing us. Who gave them permission to push female protesters?” Vinesh later asked, “We are being treated so badly for raising our voices. Is this the price of winning medals for the country? If this is the case then I pray no one wins medals…”If they wish to kill us, then let them shoot us,” said Vinesh, who can crying inconsolably in the video uploaded by the PTI. “Did we win medals for the country to see this day? We have not even eaten our food. Does every man have a right to abuse women? These policemen are holding guns, they can kill us,” an emotionally-drained Vinesh further said.

Sakshi Malik also said, “We are not going to leave this site till our last breath. The antics of Delhi Police are as if we are criminals. There is no respect for women in their eyes. We are not going to leave till we get justice.”

The thread of videos can be viewed here:

“Where were female police officers? How can the male officers push us like that? We are not criminals. We do not deserve such treatment. The drunk police officer hit my brother,” Bajrang Punia said while talking to reporters of PTI. Wrestler Bajrang Punia’s wife Sangeeta, who is also a wrestler, said she was pushed around by policemen.

Later, Bajrang Punia urged his countrymen to come to Delhi in large numbers to support their protest. “This is my humble request to my countrymen. Please arrive in large numbers in Delhi. We are fighting for your daughters’ dignity. Please join us here and show your support,” the Tokyo Olympics medalist said, according to PTI.

Punia also exhorted farmers and members of the public to reach Jantar Mantar in their support. “I request everyone to reach Delhi by Thursday morning. This is the time. If not, then when? This is a question of the dignity of our daughters. People like Brij Bhushan are roaming freely despite being criminals and all this is happening to us,” he said.

Delhi Police’s Justifications, denial of having beaten any protestors

Based on the official statement from Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), it was their decision to provide the protesting wrestlers with cots in view of the ongoing rainy spell in Delhi as rains continue to lash in the national capital. Senior AAP leader and MLA Somnath Bharti had said, “On the instructions of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, we have decided to send foldable cots to the protest site. We hope that this small help will make this tough time a little bit easier for the wrestlers.”

Meanwhile, the Delhi police claimed that it was because AAP MLA Somnath Bharti arrived at the protest venue with folding beds without permission that the “scuffle” took place. “Somnath Bharti brought folding beds to the protest site in Jantar Mantar. Since there was no permission, we didn’t allow it, so some of the supporters of the protesting wrestlers tried to take out the beds from the truck and this led to an altercation…” Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Pranav Tayal provided

“We have told the wrestlers to give complaint on their grievances and will take appropriate action…medical check-up of the Policeman on whom they’ve raised allegations, being conducted,” DCP Tayal added further.

The police officers have now claimed that the protestors wrongfully restrained a police man after accusing him of being drunk. The police has also denied that the protestors were beaten.

Footage from the venue also showed the wrestlers arguing with uniformed Delhi Police officers.  “CCTV cameras must be present. The footage will prove it,” protesting wrestler Bajrang Punia told reporters after the claims made by the police, of not having beaten anyone. He also stated that Bharti was not present when the commotion occurred, and that the wrestlers had ordered the beds.

Following the scuffle between protesting wrestlers and police officers, the Delhi Police have tightened security around Jantar Mantar. Allegedly, a large police force has also been deployed on the scene, and the entire area has been barricaded.  As provided by NDTV, the police have now sealed the protest site at Jantar Mantar, thereby stopping the regular flow of well-wishers who were coming to meet the protesting wrestler.

It is pertinent to note that the protesting wrestlers have been accusing the Delhi Police of a lack of support, claiming that the Police has been simply dragging its feet on the case because neither Singh nor the women who have complained of sexual harassment have been summoned for questioning.

Proceeding in the Supreme Court

On May 4, the Supreme Court heard the case today to take stock of the investigation and pass any required order regarding the security. It was reported by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the Delhi Police, stated that “proper security” has been provided to minor complainant. They further provided that an individual assessment of all petitioners was conducted by then, and while they found no threats, they have agreed to give the six complainant security with respect to protest. It was further also stated that that three armed police personnel were deployed in Jantar Mantar for the three who are stationed there and round the clock security is there for all the six. And on the watch of all these, the late night assault on May-3 and 4 takes place!

Significantly, senior advocate Hooda, representing the women champion petitioners mentioned clearly before CJI Chandrachud that the wrestlers had been heckled by drunk policemen at night, to which he replied that they can approach the jurisdictional courts and the Delhi High Court with this matter, and that the Supreme Court will not be hearing this issue!

Supporters detained, attempts to gag dissent

According to the Delhi police, three people have been detained following Wednesday’s incident: AAP MLA Somnath Bharti, Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda, and Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Swati Maliwal. According to a video that have gone viral on social media, women Delhi police officers were shockingly seen dragging and lifting the DCW chief from the protest site in a police van. Meanwhile, in the video, Maliwal can be heard shouting, “Don’t touch me. This is completely wrong.” 

The video can be viewed here:

After being detained by Delhi police in the late hours of May 3, Swati Maliwal arrived again at Jantar Mantar in the national capital on Thursday morning, May 4. Speaking to Republic, the DCW chief said, “Am I a terrorist? Why are Delhi Police officials troubling me and the wrestlers? They should arrest Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.”

Around 15 others, who had reached the protesting site, have also been detained in a bus. AAP minister Saurabh Bhardwaj was also among those. Slogans of ‘jai jawan jai kisan’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ were also being raised by the protestors.

AAP minister Saurabh Bharadwaj had tagged Delhi L-G V.K. Saxena in a tweet, asking him to take note of the incident. “Please note Lt Governor Delhi. A Delhi Police officer attacked a wrestler at Jantar Mantar. It is alleged that the policeman was drunk. A medical test should be conducted and MLC of the victim should also be registered,” he wrote.

Journalist Sakshi Joshi also posted a video of her being manhandled and detained by the Delhi Police. In the video, she can be heard shouting at the officers that they are tearing her clothes and detaining her without any reason. She also showed her torn clothes in the video. She was then seen sitting in a police bus, and then was taken to the police station.

The video can be viewed here:

Journalist Ajit Anjum has also posted a video on YouTube, providing his own narration of the situation that was present at Jantar Mantar. He provided that he had visited the protest site around 12.45 at night, after the Delhi police videos of manhandling the wrestlers had gone viral. When he reached the site, he saw that High level Delhi Police officers were also present at the side, and had barricaded the area, not even allowing journalists to pass. In his video, Ajit Anjun alleged the involvement of the Modi-led BJP government, as the police is under the control of the centre. He had also provided in his video that police could also be heard asking the protestors to vacate from Jantar Mantar. Ajit Anjum also alleged that supporting farmers were also not being allowed to enter the protest side.

The video can be viewed here:

While full throttled and government sanctioned attempts are being made to gag the protestors, independent media and any dissenters who are exercising their rights, Singh has been roaming free, declaring that all the complainants against have been manipulated or “paid”. The protesting wrestlers, according to him, were those who were at “Shaheen Bagh and the farmers’ protest”.

Response by the Wrestlers

According to News18, the protesting wrestlers have written to Union Home Ministry seeking strict action against officials responsible for the alleged manhandling of grapplers at the protest site on Wednesday night. In the letter, they have also sought permission to bring waterproof tents, beds, gym instruments, wrestling mats and sound system at the protest.

It has also been reported that the Aam Aadmi Party has called for a meeting of all MLAs, councillors and office bearers of AAP. The party will conduct a meeting on what transpired at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday night.


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