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No political motive in protest, say Sakshi Malik, Satyawart Kadian


Two days after the Delhi police filed a chargesheet against former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and his close aide Vinod Tomar, Sakshi Malik posted a video on her twitter account on Saturday with her wrestler husband Satyawart Kadian. In the 11-minute clip, they say their protest had no political motive, was not against the government and that the warring community should remain united.

Wrestlers Satyawart Kadian and Sakshi Malik speak during a video message on Saturday (PTI)

“Let me make it clear that our protest is not politically motivated. We came to Jantar Mantar for the first time in January, and two BJP leaders facilitated police permission to sit there,” said Kadian and Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Malik, showing a copy of the request for permission signed by BJP’s Tirath Rana on her mobile phone.

Babita Phogat was the other BJP member who helped them get the police permission, they said. Phogat is a cousin of Vinesh Phogat, the other face of the protest with Bajrang Punia. Babita’s younger sister Sangeeta, who was also in the protest, is Punia’s wife. Babita was also on the Sports Ministry’s Oversight Committee that probed the wrestlers’ allegations against Singh.

“Congress does not support this protest. More than 90 percent of the people in the fraternity know what has been going on in wrestling for 10-12 years. Some people wanted to raise their voice but the wrestling community was not united,” said Kadian, who won a medal in the Asian Championship.

Punia, Malik and Vinesh Phogat led the second phase of their sit-in at Jantar Mantar on April 23 demanding the arrest of Singh, a six-term BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Kaiserganj. The Delhi police, on directions from the Supreme Court, lodged two FIRs on April 28 naming Singh. One involved a complaint against six female wrestlers and the other was under the POCSO Act on a complaint by minors. The minor’s complaint has been withdrawn.

The wrestlers’ 36-day sit-in ended on May 28 when the police stopped their planned march to the new parliament building to attend the Malila Mahapanchayat and detained them. The protest site was also cleared. The action of the police was criticized, but Kadian said that the incident broke the wrestlers.

“Let me clarify that the call for Mahapanchayat Mahila Samman was made by the khap leaders. We followed their order and faced police action. That broke us. We have won so many medals for the country and our dignity was being trampled on the streets. I can’t explain in words what we went through,” said Kadian.

The next day, the wrestlers went to Haridwar to immerse their international medals in the Ganga but were persuaded to do so by Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Naresh Tikait. Malik and Kadian claimed that people from the “system” then betrayed them.

“One man grabbed Bajrang by the arm and took him aside. He got him to talk to some influential people. If we had done that (dipped tires), there could have been violence. We gave the medals to coaches and parents. We were not in a position to understand if there is a conspiracy,” they said.

“The system takes advantage when we are not united. If you are facing any kind of injustice, raise your voice and stay united,” he said.

Sources claimed that BJP members Tirath Rana and Sanjeev Balyan were present at Har ki Paudi that day and took Punia aside and made them talk to “people in the government”. A few days later, the wrestlers met Home Minister Amit Shah, conveying their demands to him. Next week, they had a six-hour meeting with sports minister Anurag Thakur, who assured them that the charge sheet would be filed by June 15, which was done.

It was reported that the BKU leadership was not happy with the wrestlers opening a dialogue with the government without keeping them in the loop.

Those in the know say that the wrestlers’ plan to hold a Mahapanchayat on Sunday has been cancelled.

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