This Article is From Jun 06, 2023

"Told Not To Talk About It": Wrestler Bajrang Punia On Amit Shah Meet

Wrestlers Protest: Bajrang Punia said they asked the Home Minister why Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was not arrested yet and was in fact "being shielded".

Wrestlers Protest: "We are ready to quit our jobs if it becomes an obstacle in our agitation," he said.

New Delhi:

Olympian wrestler Bajrang Punia, one of the elite grapplers leading the protest against wrestling federation chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over sexual harassment charges, today said the protesters were asked by the government to not talk about their late-night meeting on Saturday with Home Minister Amit Shah.

In an exclusive interview with NDTV, Bajrang Punia also denied any "setting" with the Home Minister and said Amit Shah told them an investigation was underway. "The protest movement hasn't died down, it will continue. We have been strategising on how to take it forward," he said.

On rumours that the wrestlers who met the Home Minister had struck a deal, and there was no use of further protests, Mr Punia said the government asked them not to discuss the meeting with Amit Shah, but the information was leaked from there.

"The athletes aren't satisfied with the government's response, neither is the government agreeing to our demands," Mr Punia, who had earlier confirmed the meeting to NDTV, said on the discussions inside.

Sources say the meeting began at 11 pm and lasted more than an hour. Besides Mr Punia, Sakshee Malikkh, Sangita Phogat and Satyawart Kadian were present in the discussions with Mr Shah.

The wrestlers demanded an impartial probe and quick action against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been accused of sexual harassment by seven women wrestlers, including a minor, they said.

Amit Shah assured the wrestlers that the law remains the same for everyone, it's learnt. "Let the law take its own course," he reportedly told the wrestlers.

Bajrang Punia said they asked the Home Minister why Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was not arrested yet and whether he was in fact "being shielded".

"He (Mr Shah) assured us that they were discussing it and will definitely take action," Mr Punia said but quickly added that they won't withdraw based on just assurances. 

"We had gone back in January based on the government's assurances, but were later declared liars," he said.

On the recent speculation suggesting the protests would die down over the wrestlers rejoining their Railways jobs, Mr Punia said they had taken a leave from their jobs and reported back 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.

"We have put everything at stake, and are ready to quit our government jobs if it becomes an obstacle in our agitation. It's not a big deal," he added.

"This is a fight for respect and dignity. We don't fear rumours, or losing the railways job. We'll quit the job if anyone pressures us," Mr Punia said.

The champion wrestler took a shot at "sources" claiming that the minor girl has withdrawn her complaint and asked if the country should trust the girl's father, who has rubbished such allegations, or the so-called sources.

On Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur alleging that the protesting wrestlers have been changing goal-posts, by inviting political parties to the protest despite claiming in January that they would not, and not trusting the probe committee formed on their demand and with their agreement, Mr Punia said it would be better if the minister kept quiet.

"12 to 13 women had personally narrated their ordeal to him, and he assured them that he would get an FIR filed against the accused...He said the committee was formed with our consent, then why would we have immediately tweeted our objection? They didn't even consult us before announcing the committee," Mr Punia said, accusing the government of misleading the athletes.

The Delhi Police has recorded statements of three to four Wrestling Federation of India members in the sexual harassment case against the federation chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, sources said. Some staff members at Mr Singh's Delhi residence have also been called in for questioning by the police, they added.

Earlier today, the Bharatiya Kisan Union said they have postponed their plan to head to Jantar Mantar on June 9 to protest the alleged inaction against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

"Talks are ongoing with the government. They (protesting wrestlers) have met the Home Minister. We have paused the June 9 protest demonstration on their request. We will support them in whatever future date they decide," Rakesh Tikait said.