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Mahila Panchayat Demands Brij Bhushan’s Immediate Arrest

Twelve women’s organisations, including AIDWA, demand a woman WFI president.
Mahila panchayat

New Delhi: A Mahila Panchayat convened by 12 women’s organisations, including the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), was held at the Constitution Club of India in the Capital on Wednesday to support the wrestlers protesting alleged sexual harassment by the Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) outgoing president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.  

The Panchayat expressed serious concern over Singh’s political rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda on Sunday and his preferential treatment because he is a BJP member of Parliament.

Previously, the allegations against the accused fell under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as one of the complainants was a minor and reportedly provided a detailed account of sexual harassment. It is noteworthy that under the POCSO Act, the accused is presumed innocent unless proven guilty, and the prosecution carries the burden of proving the guilt of the accused.

It has been learned that the 17-year-old has now provided a fresh statement under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure before a magistrate, which is admissible in court. The court will now have to decide whether the case can proceed and which of the conflicting charges to pursue, as a result of this latest statement.

However, the Panchayat demanded Singh’s immediate arrest and a woman WFI president.

On news reports suggesting that former Haryana minister Om Prakash Dhankar could be the next WFI president, AIDWA general secretary Jagmati Sangwan, said that a woman should lead the WFI.

“If a candidate affiliated with the ruling party were to be elected, there is a concern that he may hinder a fair investigation into the allegations against Brij Bhushan Shran Singh, who is also associated with the same political party,” she told NewsClick

Shabnam Hashmi, the founding trustee of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), said that Singh is “enjoying benefits despite being accused of sexual harassment”.

Hashmi alleged that Central agencies asked the Constitution Club not to allow the Panchayat. However, Club director Arvind Kumar denied the allegation. “Central agencies like the IB, Crime Branch and the Delhi Police routinely check the list of programmes beforehand and it was not a new procedure,” he told Newsclick.

The women’s organisation also demanded the arrest and a fair inquiry of Haryana sports minister Sandeep Singh, accused by a female junior coach of sexual harassment last year. In March, Nyay Sangharsh Samiti, a coalition of 16 organisations led by the AIDWA, submitted a petition consisting of 30,000 signatures from all over Haryana to the President’s Office seeking the minister’s removal and a fair investigation.

Poonam Kaushik, from All India Progressive Women’s Association, said that a strict law against “workplace harassment” is the need of the hour as the women wrestlers also are fighting against it. “It should start with Brij Bhushan Singh’s immediate arrest,” she said.

The women’s organisations decide on their next step in coordination with the protesting wrestlers.

Several women athletes and their families from Haryana present at the gathering were felicitated for their contribution to athletics and society. 

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