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Timeline: January to June, Protesting Wrestlers Await Action on Brij Bhushan

The wrestlers were forced to restart their protests in April after the Delhi Police refused to file the FIRs.

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Wrestling
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Over six months after India's greatest and most successful wrestlers took a united stand against the now sidelined Wrestling Federation of India's (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, and made allegations of sexual and mental harassment, the wrestlers continue to wait for action against the BJP MP.

In January, the Sports Ministry appointed an Oversight Committee to look into the allegations but now, six women have filed official complaints with the police against Brij Bhushan and the Delhi Police is slated to file their chargesheet on 15 June.

As the protests continue, and action is awaited, here's a timeline of everything that's transpired since January.

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18 January: Wrestlers Start Protest at Jantar Mantar, Make Allegations Against Brij Bhushan

Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik were among 30-odd wrestlers who gathered at Delhi's Jantar Mantar at 10am on 18 January in protest of the WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh."Our fight is against WFI. We will share details later in the day. Yeh ab aar paar ki ladai hai," Bajrang Punia told PTI in their only communication with the media in the morning.

At 5pm that day, seated in front of the waiting media, India's greatest wrestlers made grave allegations of sexual harassment against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

'Why is the women's wrestling camp always held in Lucknow when most wrestlers are from UP and Haryana? The men's camp happens in Sonipat. It's because he (Brij Bhushan) lives there and can harass women easily, as he can access the SAI centre easily,' said Vinesh and Sakshi as they went onto share their fear for their lives. 'We receive death threats for the smallest of things from his men,' further revealed Vinesh.

Phogat also shared that she had been subjected to mental harassment by Brij Bushan, saying she had even contemplated suicide after the BFI's chief's treatment of her following the Tokyo Olympics.

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18 January: Brij Bhushan Denies Claims

Hours after the press conference, Brij Bhushan Sharan denied all allegations of sexual harassment.

"I will talk to the players. I am ready to face any kind of investigation. Sexual harassment never happened. If even one athlete comes forward and proves this, I will hang myself," he said.

18 January: Sports Ministry Gives WFI & Chief 72 Hours to Reply

Following the allegations of the wrestlers, the Sports Ministry sought an explanation from the WFI within 72 hours, failing which it "will proceed to initiate action against the federation in terms of the provisions of the National Sports Development Code, 2011".

"Taking cognisance of the protest in which wrestlers have levelled serious charges of sexual harassment of women wrestlers by the President and coaches of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and of mismanagement in the functioning of the federation, the Sports Ministry has sought an explanation from WFI and directed it to furnish a reply within the next 72 hours on the allegations made," the sports ministry said in a statement.

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19 January: Wrestlers Meet Ministry Officials in The Morning, Continue Protest

The wrestlers returned to Jantar Mantar on Thursday morning and were joined by BJP member and former wrestler Babita Phogat. Hours later, the wrestlers left the protest site for the Sports Ministry where they were invited to speak with officials.

The meeting however did not yield results as the grapplers continued their protest and said they did not receive a ''satisfactory response''.

"We not only want the resignation of WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan, we also demand the federation to be dissolved. If there is only resignation, then it will make its men sit again," Bajrang Punia said to the waiting media.

"We have five to six girls who have evidence of sexual harassment and are ready to file an FIR against the WFI chief on sexual harassment case. If our words are not heard, then we will take the help of the police and also file a case," the Olympic medallist added.

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19 January: Wrestlers Meet Anurag Thakur at Night

Later that night, a delegation of wrestlers met Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur at his residence to discuss the sexual harassment allegations.

The four-hour meeting, however, ended without a statement or resolution.

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The wrestlers were forced to restart their protests in April after the Delhi Police refused to file the FIRs.

Wrestlers' official letter to IOA president, PT Usha.

(Photo: Twitter/Phogat_Vinesh)

20 January: Wrestlers Make Official Complaint to IOA

On Friday morning, the third day of their protest, the wrestlers share on social media the letter they collectively had submitted to Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha regarding the "sexual harassment" complaints against Wrestling Federation India chief Brij Bhushan Saran Singh.

The letter signed by Bajrang, Vinesh, Sakshi, Ravi Dahiya, and Deepak demands the resignation of the WFI chief and the formation of an inquiry committee on the allegations of sexual harassment. The letter further states that Vinesh was mentally harassed and tortured by the WFI President after she missed out on an Olympic medal in Tokyo, which led her to almost contemplate suicide.

They also made four demands- requesting the IOA to immediately appoint a committee to enquire into the complaints of sexual harassment. They asked for the dissolution of the WFI and the resignation of the WFI President. They also demanded a new committee to be formed to run the affairs of the WFI in consultation with the wrestlers.

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20 January: IOA Form Seven-Member Panel

Following the complaint, Indian Olympic Association called an emergency executive council meeting which was attended by the likes of Abhinav Bindra, Yogeshwar along with IOA president P.T. Usha and joint secretary Kalyan Chaubey. Shiva Keshvan was a special invitee at the meeting.

A decision was taken to form a seven-member committee comprising boxer M.C. Mary Kom, wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, archer Dola Banerjee, Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) president Sahdev Yadav, Alaknanda Ashok, and two advocates.

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20 January: WFI Submit Reply to Sports Ministry

Ahead of the 72-hour deadline given to them by the Sports Ministry to reply to the wrestlers' allegations, the WFI submit an eight page letter mainly addresses allegations of 'arbitrariness and mismanagement of WFI' while also denying all allegations of sexual harassment by the president.

'Not any single allegation of sexual harassment is accepted nor has ever been noticed nor found nor so far complained nor reported to sexual harassment committee to WFI,' the letter, signed by the federation's General Secretary VN Prasood said.

Meanwhile, Brij Bhushan had called for a press conference earlier in the day in Gonda, UP but after hours of waiting, his son Prateek Bhushan informs the waiting media that the WFI chief will not be speaking on the day but will instead make a statement on Sunday, after the WFI's AGM.

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The wrestlers were forced to restart their protests in April after the Delhi Police refused to file the FIRs.

Anurag Thakur and the wrestlers spoke to the media in the late hours of Friday night.

(Photo: PTI)

20 January: Wrestlers Call Off Protest After Late Night Meeting With Thakur

The wrestlers met with Anurag Thakur again on Friday night and the 7pm meeting lasted more than five hours but when the wrestlers and Anurag Thakur stepped out past midnight to speak to the media, it was to announce that the protest was being called off, pending an investigation.

"After receiving the assurance from our Sports Minister, we have decided to call off the protest," said Bajrang Punia while seating alongside Thakur, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik.

"The demands put in by the wrestlers will be taken care of. We will constitute an oversight committee to investigate and it will also look into the daily affairs of the federation and the WFI President will step aside till the probe goes on. He will also cooperate in the investigation," said the Sports Minister.

Brij Bhushan is also forced to call off the WFI AGM scheduled for Sunday.

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23 January: Mary Kom to Head Oversight Committee

World champion and Olympic bronze medallist MC Mary Kom was named the head of the government-appointed five-member Oversight Committee for the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) which was given one month to submit their findings. The committee will also comprise Olympic bronze medallist grappler Yogeshwar Dutt and former India badminton star Trupti Murgunde as key members.

Former CEO of Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) Capt Rajagopalan and former SAI Executive Director (Teams) Radhika Sreeman were also named in the committee

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31 January: Babita Phogat Joins Oversight Committee

Following complaints of the protesting wrestlers at not being consulted before the formation of the Oversight Commitee, former Indian wrestler Babita Phogat was added to the panel as the sixth member.

"Former wrestler Babita Phogat has been added to the panel of the Oversight Committee formed by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to undertake the day-to-day administration of the Wrestling Federation of India," the Sports Ministry said in a statement.

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23 February: Committee Given Two More Weeks

MC Mary Kom-led Oversight Committee is given a two week extension for their investigation against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

"The Ministry Of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) has extended the term of the Oversight Committee for Wrestling by two weeks for submission of the report pertaining to the complaint filed by a group of wrestlers against the Wrestling Federation of India. The extension has been granted on request from the Oversight Committee," the ministry said in a statement.

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12 April: Bajrang, Vinesh Skip Training Camp

After requesting to train in Kyrgyzstan and Poland for the upcoming season, Bajrang and Vinesh pulled out of the trip in protest of the Sports Ministry's delay in announcing the findings of the Oversight Committee's report.

"They (Bajrang, Vinesh) are really upset with the way things have been handled so far. Now they are saying that they will not train till the committee submits its report and Brij Bhushan is sacked," a source was quoted as saying by IANS.

Bajrang had requested to train in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan for 16 days while Vinesh had wanted to train at the Olympic Preparation Center in Spala (Poland) for 11 days.

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The wrestlers were forced to restart their protests in April after the Delhi Police refused to file the FIRs.

Indian wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik during a press conference regarding wrestlers' protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, Sunday, April 23, 2023.

(Photo: PTI)

23 April: Wrestlers Return to Start Protests

Almost two months after the Oversight Committee was originally scheduled to submit their findings in the allegations against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, India's top wrestlers returned to New Delhi's Jantar Mantar on 23 April to re-start their protest against the WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Sakshi and Vinesh revealed to the media that seven female wrestlers, including a minor, had come forward to complain against Brij Bhushan but the Connaught Place Police Station had refused to file an FIR on 21 April.

"We made a complaint at CP Police Station. It has been two days, but no FIR has been registered yet. Seven women complained, which also includes a minor. It makes for a POSCO case, but nothing has been done yet," said Sakshi Malik.

"The committee should tell us what their decision is. It hasn't happened yet. At least, we should know if we were wrong, or who was wrong," she added.

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24 April: Wrestlers Move SC for FIR

On Monday, the wrestlers moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction for to register the FIR against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

According to the plea, Phogat and other wrestlers have cited an inordinate delay in registration of an FIR by Delhi Police against the WFI chief and urged the apex court to issue a direction to police to lodge a case against him.

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24 April: IOA to Ensure Transparent WFI Polls

While the Sports Ministry remained silent on the matter of the findings of the Oversight Committee, it did request the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to constitute an Ad-hoc Committee to conduct fresh elections and manage affairs of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).

The Ministry declared as null and void the elections for the WFI that were scheduled on 7 May.

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25 April: SC Issues Notice on Wrestlers' Plea for FIR

On 25 April, the Supreme Court called the sexual harassment allegations against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh "serious" and issued notice to the Delhi Police in the matter.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justice P.S. Narasimha, said: "There are serious allegation in plea on behest of international wrestlers with regards to sexual harassment meted out to them. Issue notice returnable on Friday. Liberty to serve standing counsel NCT Delhi. The complaints which form an attachment in sealed cover and shall be again resealed."

The plea was mentioned before the bench by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Narendra Hooda, representing the wrestlers.

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27 April: IOA Sets up Ad-Hoc Committee to Run Wrestling

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) constituted a two-member Ad-hoc Committee comprising Bhupender Singh Bajwa, IOA Executive Council Member, and former Asian and Commonwealth Games medallist shooter Suma Shirur to take care of the day-to-day functionings of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). They said a third member, a retired Judge would join the committee, but failed to appoint anyone.

The new committee would fun the WFI and was also charged with overseeing the elections to set up a new Management Committee as per an order issued by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

The Ministry has mandated the Ad-hoc Committee with conducting the elections for WFI Management Committee within 45 days.

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28 April: Delhi Police Finally Lodge FIRs

Delhi Police finally registered two FIRs against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh in connection with the sexual harassment allegations made by women wrestlers, at the Connaught Place police station.

"The first one pertains to allegations levelled by a minor victim which is registered under the POCSO Act along with relevant IPC sections concerning outraging of modesty etc.

"The second FIR is registered for carrying out comprehensive investigations into the complaints tendered by other, adult complainants under relevant sections pertaining to outraging of modesty etc," said Deputy Commissioner of Police, New Delhi, Pranav Tayal .

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The wrestlers were forced to restart their protests in April after the Delhi Police refused to file the FIRs.

After meeting the protesting wrestlers at Jantar Mantar, PT Usha claimed she has was misquoted.

(Photo: PTI)

3 May: PT Usha Meets Protesting Wrestlers

Days after making a public statement saying the wrestlers were indisciplined to not approach the IOA first with their complaints, IOA president PT Usha went to Jantar Mantar to meet the protesting wrestlers.

Usha had a discussion with the protesting wrestlers and left the protest site without speaking to the media.

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3 May: Scuffle Breaks Out Between Wrestlers & Delhi Police

Late on the night on 3 May, a scuffle broke out between the wrestlers and Delhi Police after the wrestlers were not allowed to bring in makeshift folding beds into their cordoned area at the Jantar Mantar.

The wrestlers sitting also alleged that one of the wrestlers, who was then hospitalised, was attacked by a Delhi Police personnel who was drunk. Vinesh Phogat, while speaking to the media next morning, also claimed that she was subjected to abuse and physical aggression by male policemen.

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7 May: Barricades, Paramilitary at Delhi Entry Points

Following the farmers' call to protest in favour of wrestlers at Jantar Mantar, the Delhi Police tightened security and placed barricades at all the border entry points.

The Delhi Police did not allow any tractor and trolley to enter the national capital from any border. At Singhu border, the police also stationed sand-laden dumpers to deal with any untoward incident.

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28 May: Wrestlers Detained After Stand-off With Police, Protest Site Dismantled

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new Parliament building, outside on the streets, Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Sangeeta Phogat were detained by Delhi Police for trying to march towards the Parliament for the mahila mahapanchayat.

All wrestlers were released the same day but FIRs were lodged against them under Sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 186 (Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 352 (assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation), 147 (rioting) and 149 (Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the IPC and Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

After the wrestlers were detained, their protest site at Delhi's Jantar Mantar was quickly dismantled by the Delhi Police and they were not allowed back in the area.

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The wrestlers were forced to restart their protests in April after the Delhi Police refused to file the FIRs.

Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Sangeeta Phogat sit at Har ki Pauri ghat, in Haridwar on Tuesday, 30 May. The wrestlers reached Haridwar to immerse their medals in Ganga river as a mark of protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment.

(Photo: PTI)

30 May: Wrestlers Threaten to Immerse Medals in Ganga

Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, along with hundreds of their supporters reached Har ki Pauri in Haridwar to discard all their medals in the river Ganga, in protest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

However, Bhartiya Kisan Union chief and Balian Khap head Naresh Tikait convinced the wrestlers to reconsider their decision and together they gave five days to the government to take action on their demands.

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30 May: Wrestling's World Body Steps In

United World Wrestling (UWW) issued a statement condemning the ill-treatment of the protesting wrestlers and their detention following a scuffle with the Delhi Police.

UWW said it will seek further information from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Ad-hoc body appointed by it for wrestling about its plans for conducting elections for the next governing body.

The sport's international governing body also threatened of suspending the Wrestling Federation of India if the election process is not completed within the 45 days deadline.

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1 June: IOC Condemns Police Action Against Wrestlers

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) joined the UWW in condemning the manhandling of the protesting wrestlers by calling it "disturbing" and urged the authorities to ensure the "well-being of the athletes" throughout the investigation against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) sidelined chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

"The treatment of the Indian wrestling athletes over the weekend was very disturbing. The IOC insists that the allegations by the wrestlers are followed up by an unbiased, criminal investigation in line with local law.

"We understand that a first step towards such a criminal investigation has been made, but more steps have to follow before concrete actions become visible. We urge that the safety and wellbeing of these athletes are duly considered throughout this process and that this investigation will be speedily concluded," IOC said in a statement given to some media houses.

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4 June: Bajrang, Sakshi Meet Amit Shah

Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik were invited to meet Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence to discuss their protest against the sidelined WFI chief.

"They shared their concern with the Home Minister. The meeting was long and he listened to everything. But koi decision nhi hua abhi tak (no decision has been reached so far)," a source said.

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5 June: Sakshi Refutes Reports of Withdrawing From Protest

While Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat resumed their duties in the Indian Railways on 28 May 28, reports emerged that Sakshi Malik had withdrawn from the protests.

The Olympic medallist denied the reports with the post on social media, with her husband also posted a formal statement on video to deny the claims.

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7 June: Charge Sheet Against Brij Bhushan by June 15, Says Anurag Thakur

After meeting with the wrestlers at his home, Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said that a charge sheet pertaining to the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against outgoing Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh will be filed by 15 June.

"They (wrestlers) have demanded that the investigation (into the charges against the WFI chief) should be concluded and a charge sheet be filed by June 15. WFI elections will be held by June 30," Thakur told reporters.

The Sports Minister said all the decisions were taken unanimously at the meeting, adding that the wrestlers had also demanded the withdrawal of cases against various academies and sportspersons as well as not allowing Singh and his associates to participate in the election process.

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