Access to basic supplies restricted at protest site, say wrestlers

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, and Sakshi Malik addressing a press conference during their protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on April 29.

On a cloudy Saturday afternoon, between sets of barricades in central Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, sat the wrestlers, khap leaders, politicians, activists, and the common people, demanding justice for wrestlers protesting against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Wrestler Bajrang Punia on Friday night took to Instagram to accuse the Delhi Police of restricting supply of electricity and rations.

“At the protest site, they (police) have cut off electricity and have barricaded the site, making it difficult for us to access basic necessities like food and water, they even asked us to end our protest as FIRs have been registered against WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh,” Mr. Punia said, in his Instagram video.

“They are not allowing food, water, or mats inside, trying to break us. And this is not about competition or participating, it is about sexual harassment, why doesn’t he answer that? He has also said he knows what statement and complaint the minor has made, how is that possible? And we are still asked to trust the police and committees,” Mr. Punia said.

There was no immediate response from the Delhi Police and Sports Ministry on the concerns raised by Mr. Punia.

The Delhi Police are giving protection to seven women wrestlers, including a minor, who have made complaints.

According to the wrestlers’ lawyer Narender Hooda, one FIR has been registered under IPC Sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354(A) (sexual harassment), and 354(D) (stalking a woman) and another under the POCSO Act. Mr. Hooda told The Hindu, “A copy of the first FIR has been given to the wrestlers, and the second FIR copy has not been provided to us [as it will be given only to the victim’s family].”

Wrestler Somveer Kadian, 25, who is at the protest site, said it is more difficult for the women because they have been denied basic necessities. Mr. Kadian is wrestler Sakshi Malik’s brother.

He told The Hindu that there were two public toilets in the area, but at night, the police barricaded one of the toilets near Patel Chowk metro station, and the other was locked from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

On Saturday, two water tankers were allowed inside the premises by the police; however, mattresses were not allowed to be brought in, the wrestlers said.

Mr. Kadian said that on Saturday, their lunch, which comes from nearby areas with the help of other wrestlers, was also restricted. “We have lunch around noon; after fighting for it, we were allowed to get the lunch boxes around 2.30 p.m. You can stop us from accessing basic necessities, but we will survive because we’re the children of farmers,” he said.

To continue their protest, the wrestlers are using their own money to arrange for tents, bedsheets, mattresses, fans, speakers, microphones, a mini power gen-set and water and food, said wrestler Vishal Mor, who is wrestler Vinesh Phogat’s brother-in-law and a resident of Hissar in Haryana. He said that no financial help was taken from any politician or political party.


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