Putting up a brave face after the Supreme Court closed the proceedings on their plea, the protesting wrestlers on Thursday asserted that it was not a setback for them and they will continue their agitation.The wrestlers said they have all the options open before them and, after consulting their elders, they will decide whether they will move to a lower court or the High Court.The Apex Court closed the proceedings on a petition by women wrestlers, who have accused Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment, noting that FIRs have been filed against him as per the petition prayer and seven complainants have also been provided adequate security.
“Whatever the Supreme Court has done, we will be indebted to them from the bottom of our heart, because for six days the police didn’t even register an FIR. When the Supreme Court ordered, only then the FIR was registered. We will abide by the Supreme Court’s order,” Vinesh said during a media interaction.”If something doesn’t materialise soon, we have several options open. Supreme Court has also said that we can approach the Delhi High Court, we can go to the magistrate. So, we can go there as well if prompt action is not taken on our demand,” she added.
Asked if they consider Thursday’s order as a setback since they had pinned all their hopes on the top court, Vinesh replied in a negative.”Not at all. We knew what was in the hands of the Supreme Court. Everyone’s hands are tied, because our country is governed by the Constitution and not by protests. Protests cannot force them to change constitution.” “The court never orders arrest of any individual. This power is in the hands of the police. First there will be depositions, then after that arrests will be made.”So don’t think that if Supreme Court has given this decision we are downcast. It is not in the SC’s hands to arrest someone. SC has done its job. They told the Delhi Police to register FIR.
The dharna will continue and demands are the same.”If Delhi Police still shows laxity even after we approach the Delhi HC, we still have the option to go back to the Supreme Court. So we have several options open.” Earlier during the day, hurt by the boorish behaviour of the Delhi Police, the wrestlers threatened to return their medals and awards, including the Padma Shri, to the government, saying these honours serve no purpose if they have to endure such humiliation.Around 11 pm on Wednesday, a scuffle broke out when the wrestlers were bringing in folding beds for sleeping and the on-duty police personnel began enquiring about that as rules do not permit bringing in such things at the protest site.
Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik had claimed that they were abused and pushed by male police officers, leaving them in tears. Two wrestlers, including Sangeeta Phogat’s brother Dushyant, suffered injuries.”If this is how the wrestlers will be treated, what will we do with the medals? Rather we will live an ordinary life and return all the medals and awards to the Indian government,” Bajrang, an Olympic bronze medallist, told reporters on Thursday morning.
Later in the day, when he was asked specifically when do they plan to return their medals, he said they don’t have a deadline mind.”Whatever I have said we will stick to that. We will continue our fight, but if we feel that nothing is happening then we will return our medals to the government. When that deadline comes, we will inform you. So far no deadline, ” the Tokyo Games bronze medallist said.Vinesh, Sakshi and Bajrang are all winners of Khel Ratna, country’s highest sporting honour. Sakshi (2017) and Bajrang (2019) are also recipients of the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour in the country. Bajrang (2015) and Vinesh (2016) are also winners of Arjuna award.”When police is pushing us, abusing us, misbehaving then they don’t see that we are Padma Shri awardee, and not only me, there is Sakshi (Malik) also,” Bajrang said referring to the Rio Olympics bronze medallist.”They are misbehaving with us. Women and daughters are sitting on the streets, begging for kindness but no one is bothered about getting justice.” The wrestlers resumed their protest on April 23, demanding the arrest of WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual harassment of seven women grapplers including a minor.”Take it (medals) all away. We have been humiliated so much. We are fighting for our respect but we are being crushing under their feet. Does all men have the right to abuse women?,” said Vinesh, who received Khel Ratna in 2020.”We will return all our medals, even give our life but at least get us justice,” she added.
The scuffle broke out when the protesters were trying to get extra mattresses and wooden benches to the protest site for their night stay since rain had left old mattresses wet and soggy. “The policeman started pushing me, shoving me and pulling my hand. He also abused me. There was no women constable at that time. He was aggressive. There was another policeman who was drunk,” Vinesh said.The Delhi police has also blocked entry of more wrestlers at the protest site following the scuffle. Several of them, including Geeta Phogat, were stopped and later detained.
“Those people who are coming to support us are not terrorists, nor are they bringing any explosives, nor are they coming here to create chaos. They are simple people, our elders, they are only coming here to support us.”They feel our pain and are coming here. To detain them is very sad indeed. Delhi police should be ashamed of itself that instead of initiating action against Brij Bhushan, they are troubling our people.”If something happens to our supporters in police custody, then Delhi Police will be responsible for that. You want to maintain peace, we respect that, we also don’t want agitation/protest,” said Vinesh.