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Top Indian wrestlers detained as protest against federation chief intensifies

This is how our champions are being treated, says Sakshee Malikkh
Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat (C) with others are detained by the police while attempting to march to India’s new parliament, just as it was being inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a protest against Brij Bhushan Singh, the wrestling federation chief, over allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation, in New Delhi on May 28, 2023. AFP
Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat (C) with others are detained by the police while attempting to march to India’s new parliament, just as it was being inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a protest against Brij Bhushan Singh, the wrestling federation chief, over allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation, in New Delhi on May 28, 2023. AFP

Several of India’s top wrestlers, including Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, were detained by police on Sunday as they intensified their protest demanding the arrest of their federation chief over sexual harassment allegations.

The wrestlers originally hit the street in January demanding action again Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has denied allegations of sexually harassing several female athletes.

The protest was withdrawn after Singh, also a member of parliament from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, was stripped of all administrative powers by the sports ministry.

The wrestlers resumed their protest on April 23 demanding Singh’s arrest and have since been camping near the new parliament building which Modi inaugurated on Sunday.

“They broke the barricades and didn’t follow police directions,” senior Delhi Police officer Dependra Pathak told local media.

Sakshee Malikkh, who won the women’s 58kg freestyle bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics, shared photos and video of the wrestlers being dragged away by the police.

“This is how our champions are being treated. The world is watching us,” she tweeted.

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