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Wrestlers’ Protest: Opposition Condemns Attempt to Crush Dissent by ‘Egotistical King’ as Modi Inaugurates New Parliament Building

“The accused is roaming free. He is being given shelter by the government and athletes who won medals for the country are now being put in jail for demanding justice for the country's daughters," said Vinesh Phogat.
Police action against wrestlers

Vinesh Phogat and Sangeeta Phogat being detained by Delhi Police. | Image courtesy: @BhimArmyChief (Twitter)

In an attempt to bring about a forceful end to the wrestlers' protest at Jantar Mantar, the Delhi police on Sunday detained Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia for “violation of law and order” after they breached the security cordon while trying to move towards the new Parliament building for a planned women's 'Mahapanchayat'.

Immediately after the wrestlers were pushed into buses and taken to different locations, the police officers began clearing the protest site by removing the cots, mattresses, coolers, fans and the tarpaulin ceiling along with other belongings of the wrestlers.

It seems the police will not allow the wrestlers back to the protest site though no official statement has been made in this regard.

Chaotic scenes were witnessed at Jantar Mantar as wrestlers and police officers shoved and pushed each other when Vinesh Phogat, her cousin sister Sangeeta Phogat and Sakshi tried to breach the barricades.

Vinesh provided a strong resistance against her detention and Sangeeta clung on to her cousin while lying on the road as the struggle continued for a few dramatic minutes.

The police officials dragged and lifted them into buses along with several other wrestlers and their supporters.

“The accused is roaming free. He is being given shelter by the government and athletes who won medals for the country are now being put in jail for demanding justice for the country's daughters," Vinesh said.

"Welcome to the new country," she quipped from the bus window.

Bajrang Punia said that grave injustice was being meted out to them for demanding justice.

"The accused has such audacity that he is talking about changing the POCSO Act and you are doing nothing against him and here are athletes who are demanding justice with folded hands and you are ill-treating them," he said.

"Over 2000 of our supporters were detained. Everywhere dictatorship is going on," he added.

Later, he tweeted, "Does any government treat the champions of the country like this? What crime have we committed?"

Sakshi also took to Twitter to vent out her anger against the government and the Delhi Police. "This is how our champions are being treated. The world is watching us!”

“Sexual abuser goon Brij Bhushan is sitting in the Parliament today and we are being dragged on the road. Sad day for Indian sports," the Olympic medallist wrote.

"Was it a crime to bring medals for the country? if yes, then hang us," she added.

Ironically, both Bajrang and Vinesh were detained just metres away from Brij Bhushan's official residence at 21, Ashoka Road.

Commenting on the developments of the day, a number of political leaders juxtaposed the brutal crushing of the wrestlers’ protest with the inauguration of the new Parliament building on Sunday and the hullabaloo surrounding it.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi called the prime minister an “egotistical king” and termed the inauguration of the new Parliament building his “coronation” while tweeting the video of the wrestlers being dragged by the police personnel. He wrote, “The 'egotistical king' is crushing the voice of the people on the streets!”

Senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, too, condemned the “trampling the voices of our women players under the boots”.

The Aam Aadmi Party – the ruling party in Delhi – showed its support for the wrestlers by tweeting a letter denying permission to Delhi Police by the MCD Mayor to erect a temporary jail near Kanjhawala Chowk – where the police supposedly would have moved the detainees. In April, issuing a public appeal to stand by them, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar and assured them he would do anything he could to support them.

Senior CPI-M leaders Subhashini Ali and Jagmati Sangwan along with other All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) leaders and SFI leader Dipsita Dhar were also detained from the protest site. The Left party took to Twitter and pointed to the “doublespeak” on democracy.

Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad evoked “Hitler’s rule” and wrote on Twitter: “It's scary. The one who was supposed to be caught and put in jail is roaming free. Those whose honour was to be protected are being dragged on the streets of Delhi.”

Demanding that arrested wrestlers and all those detained be released forthwith, AIDWA said in a statement: “The detention of people going to Mahila Samman Panchayat at the New Parliament Building today reveals its authoritarian face. […] It is outrageous that the protesting wrestlers have been brutally manhandled by the police and arrested. Their protest site has been dismantled and destroyed by the police.”

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, in a press release, called upon "all democratic sections to rise up in protest" and warned the Narendra Modi-led BJP government that the struggle will be "intensified and carried on till the sexual harassers are arrested and punished".

It said, "The cowardly BJP Government led by Narendra Modi closed borders, arrested many activists and kept many under house arrest since yesterday to stall democratic protest on 28th May, 2023 called by the women wrestlers supported by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha. Borders were closed to stop farmers and women from reaching Delhi. Ironically coming on a day the Prime Minister inaugurated the new Parliament, the measures saw unprecedented use of force. The women wrestlers and different sportspersons, women, and farmers in support of their struggle against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, BJP Member of Parliament accused of sexual harassment were dragged by police showing utter disrespect even to the national flags in their hands and taken to different police stations."

"SKM is of the opinion that this exposes BJP’s anti-women, undemocratic character and how low they can stoop to protect people accused of sexual harassment. It shows the hollowness of the Prime Minister’s Beti Bachao slogan," read the press release. 

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