Demonstrators attempted to march to Delhi’s new parliament but were stopped by hundreds of police officers on duty for the building’s inauguration. Footage revealed protesters climbing over barricades and being carried away by police. Vinesh Phogat, a two-time World Championship medallist, and her sister Sangeeta were also detained. Malik said…
“This is wrong. We were walking quietly, they dragged us forcefully and detained us and they’re not even telling us where we will be taken.”
Phogat added that the protesters “requested with folded hands” that police let them go and that they would go peacefully. The incident occurred as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was officially opening the new parliament nearby, which replaced the British-era building. Most opposition parties boycotted the ceremony after criticising the government for not asking President Droupadi Murmu, who is head of state, to open it.
Police claimed the protesting wrestlers had not followed their directions and that they had detained those who had tried to break the barricades. Delhi’s Special Commissioner of Police, Dependra Pathak, told local media…
“They broke the law. Regarding further action, we would ascertain what rules have been violated and then take action by following the due legal process.”
The police’s handling of the march has been criticised by several opposition politicians.
“Strongly condemn the way Delhi Police manhandled Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and other wrestlers,” tweeted West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from the All India Trinamool Congress party. “It’s shameful our champions are treated in this manner.”
Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is from the Aam Aadmi Party, called the police’s behaviour “very wrong and condemnable.”
Malik, the first Indian woman to win an Olympic wrestling medal in 2016, later tweeted that once she and her fellow protesters were released, they would begin their “satyagraha,” a form of non-violent resistance, again.
The demonstrators accuse wrestling officials of sexually abusing women in the sport, including the head of its governing body, Brij Bhushan Singh, who denies the claims. Their protests began in January but were called off the same month after Singh was stripped of his administrative powers by the sports ministry and the government promised to investigate their complaints. The wrestlers restarted their protests in April, calling for his arrest. Earlier this month, they claimed they were abused and assaulted by Delhi police.
The Indian Olympic Association set up a committee to investigate the allegations against Singh, which submitted its report weeks ago. The committee’s findings have not yet been revealed. Police in Delhi were also on guard as a group of farmers tried to enter the city to support the wrestlers, following dozens of farmers breaking down police barricades in Delhi to join another protest earlier this month.
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