No More Street Protests, Wrestlers Say “Fight To Continue In Court”

No More Street Protests, Wrestlers Say "Fight To Continue In Court"
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Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik also tweeted that they are taking a break from social media.

New Delhi: Five months after some of India’s top women wrestlers accused their politically powerful federation chief of sexual harassment and sparked a nationwide protest movement, they announced on Sunday that they were moving their campaign to the court now.

Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia posted identical tweets saying that the government has fulfilled its promise of filing a chargesheet against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a member of parliament of the ruling BJP.

“In this case, the wrestlers’ protest will continue until we get justice, but it (fight) will be in court and not on the road,” the statement on Twitter read.

“Regarding the reform in WFI (Wrestling Federation of India), the election process, as promised, has begun. We will wait for the fulfilment of promises made by the government regarding the July 11 elections,” they added.

A few minutes after posting the statement, Ms Phogat and Ms Malik tweeted that they are taking a break from social media.

The move came after the police filed charges of sexual harassment, criminal intimidation and stalking against Mr Singh earlier this month, following complaints by several female wrestlers and the delay triggering an international furore.

Mr Singh, who has been relieved of administrative duties, has rejected all allegations against him. If convicted, he faces up to three years in jail. One of his aides said the lawmaker “will continue to cooperate with police and will respect the court’s decision”.

But on Saturday, in a live address on social media following a controversy about them being exempted from Asian Games trials, the three wrestlers spearheading the protest had asserted that their fight against Mr Singh will continue.

They said they are deliberating how to continue the campaign after evaluating the chargesheet filed against him.

In their police complaint, seven wrestlers have accused 66-year-old Mr Singh of groping them on several occasions and demanding sexual favours.

The wrestlers, including several Olympic and Asian Games medallists, began a sit-in protest against Mr Singh in January and then returned with a demonstration in April against the lack of action. They were briefly detained by police in New Delhi as they cleared the site the following month.

Images of the athletes being dragged away and carried off in buses went viral, sparking criticism from top athletes and opposition politicians.

The wrestlers also threatened to throw their medals into the Ganges – India’s holiest river – before agreeing to meet Home Minister Amit Shah and later Sports Minister Anurag Thakur.

Amid mounting outrage, the wrestlers suspended their protest after Mr Thakur promised a June 15 deadline to conclude the probe into Mr Singh.

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