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From Jantar Mantar Protest To Sanjay Singh Becoming WFI President: A Timeline Of The Wrestlers' Protest

“We fought from our heart but if a man like Brij Bhushan, his business partner and a close aide is elected as the president of WFI, I quit wrestling," says Sakshee Malikkh.

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Protesting wrestlers at a press conference in Delhi
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Olympic medallist Sakshee Malikkh has announced she will quit wrestling moments after Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s aide Sanjay Singh was voted to the top post in elections for the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).

The acclaimed wrestler, who was involved in protests over the inaction against then WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh accused of sexual harassment, expressed her disappointment over Sanjay Singh's victory in the WFI election.

Speaking at a press conference, she said, “We fought from our heart but if a man like Brij Bhushan, his business partner and a close aide is elected as the president of WFI, I quit wrestling.”

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Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia who have been at the forefront of the protest along with Malikkh were present at the press conference. 

“It's unfortunate that government did not stand by its word that no Brij Bhushan loyalist will contest WFI election,” Bajrang Punia said as per PTI.

“Upcoming women wrestlers will also face exploitation," Vinesh Phogat said.

A timeline of the wrestlers' protest

January 18

The protest began on January 18 when top wrestlers Sakshee Malikkh, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar and accused WFI chief Brij Bhushan Singh of sexual harassment. The wrestlers alleged an environment of “fear and intimidation” in national camps and said even some national coaches acted on Singh’s behalf. Vinesh said she had received death threats from WFI officials close to the president. They called for the dissolution of WFI, the removal of its president, and a probe into the matter. The sports ministry sought an explanation from the WFI and gave it 72 hours of time to respond.

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January 19

BJP member and former wrestler Babita Phogat met with the wrestlers and said she would speak to the government on their behalf. Other acclaimed wrestlers Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia also joined the protest. However, they ask politicians to stay away from the protest. The protesting wrestlers also met with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur at his residence. The meeting lasted nearly five hours ending late at night but no solution was found. 

January 20

Wrestlers held another meeting with Thakur and agreed to call off their sit-in at Jantar Mantar after the minister assured them that an Oversight Committee would be formed to look into the matter, and Brij Bhushan Singh would be asked to step aside until the probe was complete. They also wrote a complaint letter to the Indian Olympic Association president PT Usha.

January 21

WFI submitted a response to the Ministry, refuting allegations of sexual harassment of women wrestlers by WFI President Singh and their coaches. The statement read, "Not a single allegation of sexual harassment is accepted nor has ever been noticed nor found nor so far complained nor reported to sexual harassment committee to WFI, hence allegations to that effect are equally malicious and unfounded without being any truth in the matter."

January 23

The Ministry appointed Mary Kom as the head of the five-member Oversight Committee (OC). The committee also included Yogeshwar Dutt, Trupti Murgunde, Captain Rajagopalan and Radhica Sreeman. They were given a four-week deadline to complete the probe and were tasked with managing WFI's affairs during the period.

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January 31

Protesting wrestlers complained they were not consulted on the names of the panel members. Babita Phogat was included in the Oversight Committee as the sixth member.

February 23

The committee was given two more weeks to carry out its affairs.

April 16

WFI announced election on May 7 after the Oversight Committee’s report was submitted to the sports ministry. The ministry did not make the report public. Singh, who completed three terms in office, said he will not contest for president's post.

April 21

Seven wrestlers, including a minor, lodged individual complaints against the WFI chief. This development came shortly after Vinesh Phogat informed the media that the wrestlers had lost confidence in the investigating committee and were uninformed about the progress and specifics of the probe. The police did not file an FIR in response to the complaints.

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April 23

The wrestlers resumed their protest at Jantar Mantar.

April 24

The sports ministry said the absence of a duly constituted Internal Complaints Committee under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act was one of the ‘major findings’ in the probe report of the Oversight Committee (OC). The Ministry also declared WFI's election process null and void. In a letter to the IOA president PT Usha, the Ministry asked the IOA to form an ad-hoc committee to conduct the WFI elections within 45 days of the panel’s formation and run the WFI during the period.

April 25

Wrestlers moved the Supreme Court seeking registration of FIR against Singh. SC termed the sexual harassment allegations “serious” and issued notice to the Delhi Police asking them to file their response by Friday, April 28.

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May 3

A scuffle broke out between the wrestlers and the Delhi Police. Protesters accused drunk officials of manhandling them and misbehaving with the female wrestlers. The altercation led to detention while some wrestlers also sustained injuries.

May 11

Sporting black bands fashioned differently around their heads, arms and wrists, the wrestlers and their supporters registered their anger at the denial of justice by observing Black Day at the protest site.

May 23

The protest by wrestlers at Jantar Mantar reached the one-month mark. “Under this flag, we won medals, under this flag we will protest...” Bajrang Punia said while addressing a massive crowd of protestors assembled at India Gate on Tuesday evening while Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat waved the tricolour from atop a platform.

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May 28

The protesters marched towards the New Parliament being inaugurated by PM Modi where Delhi Police tried to stop them leading to an altercation. Medal-winning champions were dragged by the police while attempting to cross the barricades. Delhi Police slap them with rioting and other charges.

May 30

International organisations condemned police’s handling and detention of the wrestlers. “We urge that the safety and wellbeing of these athletes is duly considered throughout this process and that this investigation will be speedily concluded," the International Olympic Committee said in a statement.

The wrestlers reached Haridwar to immerse their medals in Ganga in protest. However, they decided against proceeding with their plans following talks with Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Naresh Tikait.

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June 3

Sakshee Malikkh and Bajrang Punia met with Union Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence with the meeting lasting over two hours. Bajrang Punia refrained from commenting on the details following the meeting.

June 6

The minor wrestler who accused WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment and stalking, withdrew the charges against the BJP MP. She provided a new statement before a magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, leaving it to the court to decide if the charges could be pursued, and a trial would determine the precedence of statements under Section 164.

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June 7

Protesting wrestlers met with Sports Minister Thakur at his residence, and following nearly six hours of discussions, they decided to temporarily halt the protest until June 15. The decision was based on government assurances that the police investigation into Brij Bhushan Singh would conclude by then, and the pending WFI elections would be conducted by June 30.

June 15

Delhi Police filed a sexual harassment chargesheet against Singh, invoking Sections 354 (non-bailable), 354A, 354D, and 506 of the IPC. Additionally, a cancellation report was submitted in the PoCSO case.

July 7

Delhi court takes cognisance of charge sheet and directs Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and WFI additional secretary Vinod Tomar to appear before it on July 18.

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July 18

Singh and Tomar appear, get interim bail for two days. Court fixes their regular bail pleas for hearing on July 20.

July 20

The Rouse Avenue court in Delhi granted bail to BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and Vinod Tomar.

July 21

The Delhi court, in a released order deemed the allegations of sexual harassment against the outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh as "serious." However, the court stated that taking him into custody at this stage would not serve any purpose

August 11

The Delhi Police stated there's enough evidence to put Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and suspended assistant secretary Vinod Tomar on trial in a sexual harassment case filed by women wrestler.

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August 24

United World Wrestling suspended WFI for not conducting elections on time.

September 1

During a court hearing, a lawyer representing women wrestlers who accused Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment, criticised the oversight committee's report, stating that it was a complete "eyewash" and "not worth the paper it's printed on." The comments were made before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Harjeet Singh Jaspal during arguments on the framing of charges against Singh.

September 16-24

Indian wrestlers competed at the World Championships in Belgrade under the UWW flag due to WFI's suspension.

September 23

Delhi Police argued in a court hearing that WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh "outraged the modesty" of women wrestlers, presenting evidence to support framing charges in a sexual harassment case.

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October 4

A court in Delhi postponed its decision on the cancellation report filed by the Delhi Police in a POCSO case against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

October 5

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh denied allegations of sexual harassment by six women wrestlers, calling them "false and motivated."

October 15

IOC director of communication Mark Adams stated that the IOC is closely following developments in Indian wrestling and supporting UWW in resolving the issue.

October 30

In a court session Singh's lawyer argued that the court lacked jurisdiction due to alleged offenses outside India. The prosecution contended the harassment was a continuing offense, and after hearing both sides, the judge granted three weeks for written arguments, scheduling further proceedings for November 22.

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November 24

The Additional Sessions Judge Chhavi Kapoor, originally scheduled to announce the decision on whether to accept the Delhi Police's closure report in a sexual harassment complaint filed by a minor wrestler against Singh was postponed to January 11

December 20

It was announced that a new hearing is scheduled in the sexual harassment case against former WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh after the judge previously hearing the matter was promoted. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Priyanka Rajput will preside over the matter for the framing of charges on January 4 and 6.

December 21

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's aide Sanjay Singh is elected as WFI's new President. Sakshee Mallikh quits wrestling.

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