Wrestlers Protest: What's happening?

1 May 2023  Read 2737 Views

The wrestlers have been sitting in protest since April 23rd at Jantar Mantar demanding action against India's wrestling body chief & BJP MP Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, whom they have accused of sexual harassment of seven women wrestlers including a minor. Ever since the women wrestlers accused Singh of sexual harassment, the matter has grabbed immense media attention. The Apex Court too had to intervene in the matter which recently passed its verdict. 

So, read this article to know what was the verdict, the timeline of the protest, the laws on sexual harassment, and many more. Stay tuned with us!

Why are the wrestlers protesting at Jantar Mantar?

  • The wrestlers seek immediate removal of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brijbhushan Sharan Singh & few other officials pending inquiry against them.

  • Brijbhushan is also an MP of the ruling BJP who previously dismissed the allegations & said in the media that he is even “ready to be hanged” if even a single female wrestler proved the sexual harassment charge against him.

  • He also cancelled a news conference meant to reveal a “conspiracy” against him and sent out his son to speak to journalists.

  • Indian Sports Minister Anurag Singh Thakur met protesting wrestlers & assured an inquiry into the accusations which is said to be completed in four weeks.

  • The Delhi Police registered two FIRs, one under the stringent POCSO Act and another concerning outraging the modesty of a woman, against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President & Kaiserganj BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

The Sports Minister also stated that “until then, a committee will carry out the day-to-day work of the federation”.

Laws on sexual harassment at workplace

We don't know what the SC's judgment might be in this case. However, after such an incident, it gets even more important for a woman to stay updated with her legal rights in cases like these.  First of all, the Act which governs such crimes is the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) (PoSH) Act, 2013 wherein the term ‘workplace’ is broadly defined and also liberally interpreted by the judiciary.

  • According to Section 2(o)(iv) of this Act, “any sports institute, stadium, sports complex or competitions or games venue, whether residential or not used for training, sports or other activities relating thereto” is a workplace.
  • The workplace is the Act’s key term. The terms ‘employer’ (Section 2(g)) and ‘employee’ (Section 2(f)) are defined in relation to it. An employer is a person in charge of the “management, supervision, and control” of the workplace. The employer is liable to form an Internal Committee (IC) for the workplace.
  • Thus, as per the Act, India’s various sports federations are employers concerning the sports facilities, venues for competitions, events, hostels, and game villages.

Therefore, in cases of sexual harassment with any women sportsperson, these employers are obligated to establish an IC to investigate and inquire into such allegations and take up the matter seriously.

Cases of Sexual Harssment in Sports Industry

In the past years, India has witnessed several cases of sexual harassment against women sportspersons. In February 2019, a parliamentary committee was once constituted for the empowerment of women which showed that the incidents of sexual harassment in sports can be higher as most of them goes unreported. The current case is not the only one that grabbed the media's attention. There have been many previous incidences of sexual harassment such as in January 2020, an FIR was registered against a coach for allegedly harassing a woman cricketer. In July 2021, seven sportspersons accused renowned coach P Nagarajan of sexual harassment.

What happened during the wrestler's protest?

Currently, SC had to issue notice this week to the Delhi police for refusing to file an FIR on the complaint of sexual harassment by seven women wrestlers, including a minor, against the former WFI president and BJP MP for more than three days. Let’s wrap up what happened until now: 

  • SC took up this case on the 28th of April to hear a plea by top Indian wrestlers along with the registration of an FIR against the WFI president over the alleged sexual harassment of women wrestlers.
  • The wrestlers approached the Supreme Court after they failed to convince the Delhi Police to arrest Singh on 21st April.
  • Seven national and international medallists, including a minor, alleged sexual harassment by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is also a BJP MP from Kaiser Ganj.
  • CJI DY Chandrachud admitted that “there are serious allegations contained in the petition at the behest of wrestlers who have represented India about sexual harassment. Issue notice, returnable on Friday.”.
  • On one hand, where wrestlers received support from Olympic gold medallists - Chopra, and Bindra, on the other hand, PT Usha slammed the wrestlers heavily, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President stated that the grapplers protesting on the streets amounts to indiscipline and tarnishing India’s image.
  • Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is accused in this case told PTI that: “Friends, the day I will review my life, what I have achieved and what I have lost, and the day I will feel that my capacity to struggle has ended, the day I will feel I am helpless, I am weak, I would not like to live such kind of life and would rather like to embrace death.”

Update on Wrestler's Protest

  • April 28: Two FIRs were registered against the WFI Chairperson. One FIR was registered under the POCSO Act, and another under the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

  • May 3: An altercation broke out between the wrestlers and Delhi police. The protesting wrestlers alleged manhandling by drunk police officers. The police officers claimed there was no force used. As a result of the altercation, some wrestlers were detained, while some suffered injuries.

  • May 4: The Supreme Court closed the proceedings and asked the protestors to approach the lower court for relief.

  • May 7: Rakesh Tikait, the leader of the Farmers' protest, joined the protesting wrestlers.

  • May 28: Section 144 gets imposed after the protesting wrestlers march towards the new Parliament building during its inauguration in Delhi. Visuals of a fierce tussle between the protesting wrestlers and the Delhi police emerged. An FIR is lodged against the wrestlers for rioting and other charges.

  • May 28: WFI Brij Bhushan Singh responded to the calls of undergoing a narco analysis test stating he is ready to go through it if the protestors agree to go through the test. The protesting wrestlers said that they are prepared for it if it is telecasted live and is done under the supervision of the Supreme Court of India.

  • May 30: The protesting wrestlers posted an open letter on social media announcing their decision to immerse their medals in river Ganga. This action was a mark of protest against the WFI Chairperson. On their way to immerse the medals, the protestors are stopped by the farmer leaders who ask them for five days to resolve the issue.

  • June 2: Farmers hold 'maha panchayats' to show solidarity with the wrestlers and gave a deadline of June 9 to the Government to take action against the WFI Chairperson, failing which, the farmers warned that they would hold more panchayats across the nation and the wrestlers will return to Jantar Mantar for protest. Various media outlets shared the wrestlers' allegations, as mentioned in the two FIRs, alleging crimes like outraging the modesty of a woman, sexual harassment, etc.

We know how important it is to be updated on the status of wrestlers' protests. We'll continue to share more information as things progress. Stay tuned for future updates!

Conclusion

The lack of response by the police, in this case, forced a galaxy of top national- and international-level wrestlers to sit on a protest once again at Jantar Mantar. This case relates to the blatant misuse of official positions and the use of power by the accused to intimidate and silence the victims. The SC has dismissed the petition and it's yet to see whether the aggrieved parties will end their protest or approach the trial court or HC for redressal. Let’s hope that justice prevails and the perpetrators be held responsible for their actions and inactions.

What's your take on this wrestler's protest? Should SC have intervened in this matter? 

Comment us below! 😊

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 275 Post(s)

She is a Legal Content Manager at Finology Legal! With a Masters in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), a BBA.LL.B from ITM University, and patent analyst training from IIPTA, she truly specializes in her field. Her passion for IPR and Criminal laws is evident from her advanced certification in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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