Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait speaks during a Khap panchayat members meeting organized to discuss the future action in the wrestlers' protest, in Kurukshetra on Friday. Image Credit: ANI

Kurukshetra (Haryana): Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait on Friday warned the Indian federal government that if Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, facing sexual harassment charges by country’s top wrestlers, is not arrested by June 9, then farmer leaders will hold panchayats across the nation in support of the grapplers.

Tikait, who attended a Khap panchayat held to express solidarity with wrestlers here, also said that if the demands are not met within the given time, they will go to the Jantar Mantar, Delhi.

Also read

“We have taken a decision that Govt must address the grievances of wrestlers and he (Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh) should be arrested otherwise we will go with wrestlers to Jantar Mantar, Delhi on June 9 and will hold panchayats across the nation,” Tikait said.

The Khap leaders also said that if they will not be allowed to sit at Jantar Mantar on June 9, then there will be an announcement of Andolan.

Earlier on Thursday, a Khap ‘mahapanchayat’ to discuss the ongoing protest by wrestlers against WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was held in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar.

Khap leaders from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi attended the Mahapanchayat on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, and Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat went to Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar along with their supporters to immerse their medals in the Ganga river.

But after farm leaders persuaded them not to take the drastic step, the wrestlers decided not to throw their medals in the river.

Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh addressing a press conference in Gonda. Image Credit: ANI

However, Singh on Thursday alleged that the protesting wrestlers are changing their “demands and language” continuously and added that he still stands by his statement that he will hang himself if even one of the allegations against him is proven to be true.

“...First they (protesting wrestlers) had some other demand and later they demanded something else. They are changing their demands and language continuously. I had said that if even one case against me gets proven, I will hang myself...I stand by my statement..,” said Brij Bhushan to media in Gonda.

The FIRs

In the two FIRs registered against Singh on April 21, it has been alleged by seven grapplers, including one minor, that Singh allegedly attempted to coerce one wrestler into sexual acts by offering to provide her with “supplements”, invited another wrestler to his bed and hugged her, besides assaulting and inappropriately touching other athletes.

“...Singh first sexually assaulted me. While I was training, the accused called me separately, to which I refused since the accused (Singh) was also touching other girls inappropriately,” said one of the adult grapplers in the FIR.

“However, I was again called by the accused who then pulled up my T-shirt and slid his hand down my stomach, put his hand on my naval on the pretext of checking my breath,” she alleged.

Indian wrestlers along with their supporters gather to immerse their medals in the river Ganges as a mark of protest against Brij Bhushan Singh, the wrestling federation chief, over allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation, in Haridwar on May 30, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

“One such incident took place during my stay at a hotel, where the accused had caught hold off me alone and offered me some unknown edible item saying that it was good for my health and would help me perform better in the competition, which was not approved by my dietician or by my coach. I also came to know that the accused used to call girls to his room late at night, which clearly indicates his ill intentions,” she added.

Another wrestler (2) stated in the FIR that she was stretching/warming up on a mat when Singh came there and leaned on her in the absence of her coach.

“Without seeking my permission, he pulled up my T-shirt and placed his hand on my breast and slid it down to my stomach on the pretext of “examining/checking my breathing” and touched me inappropriately,” said wrestler 2.

Photo shoot

“When we were protesting at Jantar Mantar, Singh through his goons tried to contact me besides issuing threats,” she added.

The third grappler in the FIR said she was standing in the last row during a photo shoot and waiting for the other wrestlers to take their position, when Singh put his hand on her buttock.

“I immediately looked back and to my horror, Singh had placed his hands on my buttock. I was stunned by the action of the accused which was highly indecent and objectionable and without my consent. I immediately tried to move away from the spot in order to protect myself, but I was forcibly held by my shoulder by Singh,” she alleged in the FIR.

“On the pretext of getting a picture clicked with me, Singh forcefully pulled me towards him by my shoulder and forced me to get a picture clicked against my will. I resisted his act and tried to push him away from me to which he replied by saying ‘Zyada smart bann rhi hai kya? Aage koi competition nhi khelne kya tune’,” said the fourth grappler in the FIR.

The fifth wrestler alleged in the FIR that Vinod Tomar, the Secretary of WFI, had once told her that Singh was calling her to a room.

“I thought he will congratulate me as I just won a championship. When I went to the room, Singh called me towards his bed on which he was sitting and then all of a sudden, he hugged me forcefully without my consent,” she said in the FIR.

“In order to further fulfil his sexual intentions, he also tried to bribe me by offering to buy me supplements which I may require as an athlete in exchange of sexual favours,” she alleged in the FIR.

“During an overseas competition, the WFI chief had called me to his dinner table where he was sitting separately. To my utter shock and surprise and without my consent, he placed his hand on my breast and groped me and then slid his hand down to my stomach. To my disbelief, the accused did not stop there and again moved his hand upwards towards my breast. This he repeated 3-4 times,” said the sixth wrestler.

A minor wrestler was allegedly sexually harassed by the WFI chief multiple times, claimed one FIR.

The FIR registered under various sections of IPC and POCSO Act gives details of the harassment allegations.

“Sir, mein apne bal-boote par yaha tak aayi hu, aage bhi mehnat karke aage tak jaugi (I have come this far with my hard work and determination, and I will continue to strive forward),” read the complaint by the grappler against Singh, who, she alleged, was holding her tightly while pretending to get a picture clicked.

The girl said, as per the FIR, that “he squeezed her towards himself and pressed really hard on her shoulder and then deliberately slid his hand down her shoulder and brushed his hands against her breasts, saying ‘Tu mere ko support kar, mein tere ko support karunga, mere saath touch mein rehna’ (you support me, I will support you, you remain in touch with me).”

According to the police, the incidents reported by the complainants allegedly took place between 2012 and 2022 at multiple locations, and require a comprehensive investigation.