Hours after Olympian wrestler Bajrang Punia told NDTV that protests against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, BJP MP and Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, would continue unless action was taken on sexual harassment charges against him, Union Home Minister Amit Shah invited the protesters for a second round of talks, sources said today.
In his interview with NDTV yesterday, Bajrang Punia said the protesters were asked by the government to keep their Saturday meeting with Amit Shah a secret. He also denied “any setting” with the Home Minister and said the protesters would not back down on their demands.
Sources say after the interview, Bajrang Punia received a phone call from Amit Shah, who invited the wrestlers to another meeting. That meeting is likely later today.
Mr Punia reportedly told the Home Minister that the wrestlers didn’t want any secretive meeting.
Soon after the phone call, Union Minister Anurag Thakur tweeted a formal invite for talks. In a post at 12.47 am on Wednesday, Mr Thakur wrote: “The government is willing to have a discussion with the wrestlers on their issues. I have once again invited the wrestlers for the same.”
The government is willing to have a discussion with the wrestlers on their issues.
I have once again invited the wrestlers for the same.
— Anurag Thakur (@ianuragthakur) June 6, 2023
Sharing details on the wrestlers’ late-night meeting with Amit Shah on Saturday, Bajrang Punia said the Home Minister had assured that an investigation against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was underway.
“The protest movement hasn’t died down, it will continue. We have been strategising on how to take it forward,” Mr Punia said. “The athletes aren’t satisfied with the government’s response, neither is the government agreeing to our demands.”
Mr Shah met with Mr Punia, Sakshee Malikkh, Sangita Phogat, and Satyawart Kadian for more than an hour at 11 pm.
The Home Minister reportedly assured the wrestlers that the law remains the same for everyone. “Let the law take its own course,” he reportedly told the wrestlers.
When the wrestlers rejoined their Railways jobs on Monday, two days after the meeting, there was speculation that the protest had ended. Mr Punia emphatically denied it, clarifying that they had taken leave from work and had reported to the office for one day to sign in after they were evicted from Delhi’s Jantar Mantar protest site. “We haven’t gone back to our jobs since,” he said.
Seven women wrestlers, including a minor, have accused Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment. In two FIRs, he has been accused of touching women athletes inappropriately on the pretext of checking their breath, groping them, asking inappropriate personal questions, and demanding sexual favours.
The wrestlers have demanded an impartial investigation and swift action against the wrestling body chief.
The Delhi Police has reportedly questioned Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh twice and has recorded the statements of three to four Wrestling Federation of India members. Some staff members at Mr Singh’s Delhi home have also been called in for questioning by the police, sources say.