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Eerie silence at Jantar Mantar; cops say won’t let protesters regroup

New Delhi, May 28, 2023- An eerie silence prevailed on Sunday at Jantar Mantar in the national capital where the country’s top wrestlers had been protesting for more than a month against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over sexual harassment allegations.

Hours after the forceful end to the wrestlers’ protest at Jantar Mantar, following the detention of Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Sangeeta Phogat, and Bajrang Punia, along with their supporters, for violating law and order by breaching the security cordon while attempting to move towards the new Parliament building for a planned women’s ‘Mahapanchayat’, the protest site appeared deserted, with heavy police security still in place.

The Delhi Police began clearing the protest site by removing cots, mattresses, coolers, fans, the tarpaulin ceiling, and other belongings of the wrestlers.

Previously, the site had witnessed support from farmers, khap leaders, and opposition party members. Now, it stands almost empty, with only a few supporters roaming around, awaiting the next steps in seeking justice.

“Our movement is not over. After being released from police custody, we will resume our protest at Jantar Mantar. In this country, there will be no dictatorship, but a protest led by women wrestlers,” wrote Sakshi Malik on Twitter.

However, it appears that the Delhi Police will not allow the wrestlers back to the protest site. “Protesters will not be allowed to head back to Jantar Mantar,” said a senior police officer.

Despite repeated calls, the police have not responded to inquiries about the number of people detained since morning.

“We are waiting for our players to return here, and when they do, we will provide them with all the assistance and support in their protest,” said Ajit (58), who came from Najafgarh to support the wrestlers and has been at Jantar Mantar since 5 a.m.

“If the police do not permit us to continue our protest, we will not cease our fight for justice. They were quick in detaining protesters and clearing the protest site, which had been occupied for the past month. But why have they not arrested the WFI chief yet? Does the law only apply to those who fight for justice?” questioned Parvesh Nandal (38), a wrestling coach from Rohtak in Haryana, who was present at Jantar Mantar.

“Everyone is angry, and what happened today with the wrestlers is unacceptable. A ‘maha khap panchayat’ will be called soon, and hundreds of thousands of people will come to Delhi, demanding justice for the wrestlers,” stated Surendra Solanki, the president of Palam Khap.

On asking if the police would not allow protesters to reach Jantar Mantar again, Solanki told IANS that earlier also, no permission was taken to stage the protest and if police do not allow, they will sit again at Jantar Mantar without any permission.

On Sunday, tensions had heightened as Vinesh Phogat, along with her sister Sangeeta Phogat, and other wrestlers, made an attempt to breach the security barricades.

This led to a clash, with both protesters and police officers engaging in shoving and pushing, and later, all wrestlers including Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and their supporters were detained and removed from the protest site.

Since April 23, prominent Indian wrestlers such as Punia, Malik, and Vinesh Phogat have been staging a protest at Jantar Mantar against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. (Agency)

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