Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Rajbir Singh
Some of India's most prominent wrestlers such as Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia on 23 April, Sunday resumed their protest at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar, calling out Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for allegedly sexually harassing female wrestlers for several years.
Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik also confirmed that a complaint of sexual harassment has been filed against Singh at the Connaught Place police station in Delhi, but an FIR is yet to be registered.
"Seven girls, including a minor, gave a complaint at CP police station against Brij Bhushan Singh regarding sexual harassment but FIR is yet to be filed. There must be POCSO case. We've been waiting for 2.5 months...," Malik said, as quoted by news agency ANI.
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is a powerful man and presently the BJP MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh. On his part, he has denied the allegations and said that he is "willing to be hanged" if these allegations are found true.
But how did he reach this position? And how are these allegations linked to his political career? We will look at some of these aspects in this piece.
Six-Time MP, Accused in Babri Masjid Demolition
A Thakur from Uttar Pradesh's Gonda district, 65-year-old Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is a six time Member of Parliament and has represented Gonda, Kaiserganj and Balrampur constituencies. He won five out of these on a BJP ticket, the only exception being the 2009 election when he had a short stint with the Samajwadi Party.
His wife Ketki Devi Singh has been president of the Gonda Zila Panchayat and son Prateek Bhushan Singh is presently the MLA from the Gonda Sadar seat.
Singh is one of the accused in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992.
A wrestler during his youth, Singh had the image of being a Bahubali during the 90s.
There was also a case against him under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) in the mid-90s for allegedly harbouring associates of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim: Subhash Singh Thakur, Jayendra Thakur alias Bhai Thakur, Paresh Desai and Shyam Kishore Garikapatti. He was also accused of providing them his phone to speak to Dawood. He was later acquitted of these charges.
According to his election affidavit for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Singh has four pending cases against him in Ayodhya and Gonda. He faces charges such as dacoity, attempt to murder and rioting, among others.
In an interview, he had also claimed to have killed a gunman who had shot dead his associate Ravinder Singh.
Political Angle to Sexual Misconduct Charges
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been president of the WFI for close to a decade. Despite criticism of his style of functioning, he has maintained his hold over the federation. He had even allegedly slapped a wrestler on stage during a function.
His political clout is said to be a major reason for his stranglehold over the federation.
However, within the BJP, there have been tensions for him of late. In 2022, he publicly criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for "shoddy arrangements" during the floods, especially in Gonda district.
"I have never seen such bad arrangements in my life," he had said, adding that he may be labelled a "rebel" for "speaking the truth".
He had earlier threatened to teach a lesson to Raj Thackeray if he entered Ayodhya, at a time when Thackeray's MNS was growing closer to the BJP.
He has several detractors in the BJP central and Uttar Pradesh leadership and BJP insiders say the sexual misconduct allegations wouldn't have become public in this way without the tacit backing of powerful elements within the BJP.
"Look at the manner in which it is happening. Prominent athletes coming out. They are at Jantar Mantar. Some of them have so much to lose. This wouldn't have happened without support from powerful people," a source within the BJP disclosed.
Another important angle is his tussle with Yoga guru and business magnate Baba Ramdev. Singh has been a bitter critic of Ramdev and his products.
Still, this is a tricky matter for the BJP. Recently, its minister in Haryana Sandeep Singh resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct by a coach. However, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh doesn't hold any ministerial post and therefore it isn't up to the government to sack him. The question remains how the government will legally pursue this matter. With Opposition parties joining the chorus against Singh, it may be a matter of time.