Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik: Indian Wrestlers Pause Protest After Meeting Anurag Thakur
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Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik: Indian Wrestlers Pause Protest After Meeting Anurag Thakur

India’s top wrestlers have suspended their protests after a senior minister promised them a swift investigation into the sexual harassment allegations against their federation chief.

The protesters have been camping in Delhi since April, demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

On Wednesday, they met Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and held talks that lasted nearly six hours. Mr Thakur said the police would complete an investigation against Mr Singh by 15 June.

He said the wrestlers had assured him that they would not hold any demonstrations until then.

The government has also promised to hold elections to the executive committee of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) by 30 June and said that neither Mr Singh, nor any of his close associates, would have a role in the new panel.

“It is better for the country to have the award-winning grapplers on the mat than on the roads,” Mr Thakur told The Indian Express newspaper after the meeting.

The wrestlers first began protests in January but called it off the same month after India’s sports ministry stripped Mr Singh of his administrative powers for a few weeks and the government promised to investigate their complaints.

But the protests restarted in April, with the wrestlers calling for his arrest.

Mr Singh, who is also an influential MP from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has denied the allegations and accuses the wrestlers of being “politically motivated”.

Last month, the protest site was cleared and several wrestlers were briefly detained as they tried to march to India’s new parliament. The police also filed cases including of rioting against them.

Visuals of the athletes being dragged and carried off in buses went viral, sparking criticism from top athletes and opposition politicians.

On 30 May, the wrestlers threatened to dump their medals into the Ganges – India’s holiest river – following which a delegation of protesters met Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence last week.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United World Wrestling (UWW) – the sport’s international governing body – also issued statements condemning the way the wrestlers have been treated. They also criticised the “lack of results” in the investigations against Mr Singh.

So far, the police have filed two cases against Mr Singh, including one under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (Pocso).

Mr Singh has said that the law was being misused. He has been questioned by police but not arrested yet.

On Wednesday, Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia, who was part of the delegation that met Mr Thakur, said the government had assured them that they would complete the police investigations against Mr Singh by next week.

“But if no action is taken by 15 June, we will continue our protest,” he added.

Source : BBC