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West UP Khap Leaders Throw Weight Behind Protesting Wrestlers, SKM Declares Nationwide Stir

Around 30 Khaps from Western UP will be joined by farmer leaders from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan on May 7, at the protest site in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.
Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Photo Credit: Special Arrangement 

Lucknow: The khaps — rural community organisations — of Western Uttar Pradesh, have unanimously decided to support the ongoing wrestlers' protest in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against alleged sexual harassment by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the Wrestling Federation of India chief. The decision by the khaps was taken at a meeting of the chiefs of 30 khaps in Muzaffarnagar. Their representatives, under the banner of "Sarv Khap", said they would gather on May 7 and proceed towards Delhi to join the protesters. 

Backing the protest, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a collective of farmers unions that spearheaded the historic struggle for repealing farm laws on the borders of Delhi, also announced on Saturday that a nation-wide agitation programme would be held from May 11-18 in support of the women wrestlers who have been protesting in Delhi since April 23.

Photo Credit: Special Arrangement 

This support has widened for the agitating wrestlers after they alleged manhandling by Delhi Police personnel at Jantar Mantar on May 4 night.

On Thursday, Khap leaders held an emergency meeting in Muzaffarnagar's Soram village — the epicentre where Khap leaders usually gather to discuss different social issues and pass their decrees that work as guidelines for members of respective Khaps.

The Thembedars (regional heads) of the Khap who attended the meeting and said they would travel to Delhi to support the wrestlers included Balyan, Deshwal, Rathi, Budianan, Dudda, Beniwal, Kund, Nirwal, Ghanghas, Latiyan, Ahlawat, and Battista. 

The general secretary of Sarv Khap, Subhash Baliyan, presided over the meeting and appealed to the people to reach Jantar Mantar in large numbers on Sunday. 

"Our sportspersons are the pride of our nation. They play for the nation and not for any caste or religion. We must all stand with the wrestlers as a matter of national pride. Therefore, the Khaps have decided to support them in the emergency meeting," Baliyan told NewsClick.

Village leaders from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan will also gather at Jantar Mantar to discuss the further course of action and take a decision on how to support these wrestlers, claimed the Sarv Khap leader. 

Meeting In Soram Village of Muzaffarnagar

The emergency meeting was attended by Naresh Tikait , Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief and head of Baliyan Khap and leaders of other Khaps. They condemned the way the police allegedly treated wrestlers in the middle of the night on May 4, and said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) reign was more “dangerous” than the British colonial rulers.

Addressing the Khap panchayat, Tikait said, "It is a battle for honour of our daughters and for our existence.” He also criticised the government for keeping mum over the issue raised by women wrestlers against the WFI chief.

The BKU leader also reminded the government as well as Delhi Police about the farmers’ agitation. "Over four lakh tractors are still parked in our houses and 25 lakh farmers are ready to reach Delhi. They have been just waiting for our command."

Meeting In Soram Village of Muzaffarnagar

Meeting In Soram Village of Muzaffarnaga

Chaudhary Jitendra Singh of Hooda Khap, who was also part of the meeting in Soram village, told NewsClick, "The wrestlers have won a lot of medals and brought laurels for the country but the ruling government and its representatives want to divide the players on the basis of region and caste. We as Khap leaders will not let our children bow down before the government. Therefore, we will reach Jantar Mantar tomorrow (Sunday) and sit with them until the government accepts their demands."

Arrangements are also being made for food, tents and other essential commodities who will be staying at Jantar Mantar. 

Top wrestlers, including Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, have been protesting at Jantar Mantar seeking the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is also a BJP MP, and has been accused of molesting several women wrestlers.

Recently, students from different universities, including Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Lucknow University and Banaras Hindu University (BHU), also carried out a march in solidarity with the agitating wrestlers, as reported by NewsClick. 

SKM Agitational Programme From May 11-18

Meanwhile, in Delhi, the SKM leaders maintained that that the Narendra Modi government failed to fulfil its promise to the sportspersons given in January 2023 to investigate and take necessary steps against BJP MP Brij Bhushan Saran Singh, against whom very serious allegations of sexual harassment have been made by the women sportspersons, including a minor. 

Darshan Pal, a core team team member of SKM said, “several senior leaders of SKM from Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh, on May 7, with hundreds of farmers, shall once again visit the protest site at Jantar Mantar and extend fullest support to the wrestlers. The SKM leaders shall also lead a deputation to important administrative and political persons like Commissioner of Police, Delhi, Union Sports Minister, Home Minister etc. and demand immediate arrest of Brij Bhushan Saran Singh.”

He said from 1May 11-18, an all-India agitation programme shall be held in all state capitals, district and taluk headquarters. Public meetings and protest marches will also be held and the effigy of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and his supporter, the BJP government, shall be burned.

The farmer leaders also condemned the Delhi Police for not acting with due sensitivity as per the law to arrest the accused and ensure in-camera proceedings.

 “We also condemn Delhi Police's denial of basic civil rights of the protesting sportspersons (who are pride of the nation) of access to water, electricity, protection, bedding etc,” Pal added.

(With inputs from Ravi Kaushal in Delhi)

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