Wrestlers Detained Trying To March To New Parliament, Protest Site Cleared

India's top wrestlers had planned a protest outside the parliament as it was inaugurated on Sunday.

The wrestlers have demanded the sacking of federation chief Brij Bhushan Singh.

New Delhi:

Less than two kilometres away from the grand inauguration of the country's new parliament, chaos unfolded in the heart of the capital on Sunday as top wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, and Bajrang Punia, were detained by Delhi Police while attempting to march towards the new parliament building.

The Olympics and Commonwealth Games medal-winning champions were seen being shoved, pushed and dragged into buses in scenes that stoked widespread outrage.

The athletes had planned a 'Mahila Samman Mahapanchayat' (women's assembly) as part of their ongoing protest against the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Mr Singh, a member of the ruling BJP, has been accused by the wrestlers of sexually harassing several female athletes. These allegations have stirred a nationwide controversy, leading to widespread protests demanding his arrest.

Delhi Police had ramped up security measures at Jantar Mantar, the designated protest site, ahead of the planned 'Mahapanchayat'. Despite the increased security, the wrestlers remained adamant about going forward with their protest.

The tension escalated when the wrestlers, led by Vinesh Phogat and her cousin sister Sangeeta Phogat, attempted to breach the security barricades.

"All protesters were detained and forcefully boarded in buses by Police," said Dependra Pathak, Special Commissioner of Police, Law and Order. He added that the athletes were "detained for violating law and order," and assured that legal action would be taken "after an inquiry in due course of time".

Following the detentions, police officers proceeded to clear the protest site, which had been active since the wrestlers resumed their protest against Mr Singh on April 23.

Opposition leaders, who boycotted the parliament opening, strongly condemned the crackdown.

The protesting athletes, which include Olympic medallists and Asian Games gold winners, have been unwavering in their demand for Mr Singh's arrest. The use of force by the police, they insisted, would not deter them from carrying on with their peaceful protest and assembly.