New Delhi: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra expressed solidarity with protesting wrestlers after meeting them at Jantar Mantar here on Saturday and accused the government of “protecting” WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is facing allegations of sexual harassment levelled by women grapplers.
The Congress general secretary also called for the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief’s ouster from the post so that he is unable to “exert pressure” on the wrestlers and hamper their careers.
Priyanka Gandhi, who is scheduled to take part in a series of poll campaign events in Karnataka later in the day, reached Jantar Mantar in the morning and interacted with the wrestlers.
She was seen hearing out ace women wrestlers such as Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat.
Speaking with reporters at Jantar Mantar, Priyanka Gandhi demanded that the copy of FIRs filed on Friday must be shared with the wrestlers as they do not know what sections of the Indian Penal Code have been applied.
“When these girls get medals, everyone tweets, say they are our country’s pride but now when they are sitting on the road and seeking to be heard, saying they have been wronged, no one is ready to listen to them. If FIRs have been filed, their copy should be shared with them,” she said.
Calling for the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief’s ouster from the post, Priyanka Gandhi said, “See, there are serious allegations against this person, he should first resign and be removed from the post. Till he is in that post, he will continue to exert pressure and keep destroying people’s careers.” “If that person is there on a post through which he can destroy the careers of wrestlers, harass them and exert pressure, then what is the meaning of FIRs and investigation,” she said They should remove him from the post and take away his powers, the Congress leader asserted “I don’t have any expectations from the prime minister, because if he had been concerned about these wrestlers, then he would have at least called them and spoken with them. He had called them for tea when they won medals. So call them, talk to them, they are our girls,” said Priyanka Gandhi, flanked by top wrestlers, Bajrang Punia, Malik, Phogat and Congress MP Deepender Hooda.
She said many women wrestlers have complained and “I want to understand why is the government protecting” this person.
“I want to ask why so much is being done to protect this man. These girls, who have done so much for the country and their homes, you should save them, and they (government) are saving this person,” Priyanka Gandhi said.
“What does it say about our country if we cannot save our girls,” she said.
Asked about the oversight panel that investigated the allegations, the Congress general secretary said, “We all know what committees are, they are meant to skirt the issue.” Whenever there is exploitation of women, this government goes “mute”, she alleged, and added that it is an old story that FIRs are not registered and women have to run from pillar to post.
“There girls are so brave and courageous and they are standing up and saying that we will not let this happen,” she said.
“The prime minister acknowledges or not, his ministers acknowledge or not, their government acknowledges or not, the whole country is with them (women wrestlers, and the government wants to save this man (Singh),” Priyanka Gandhi said.
Action will be taken when there will be public pressure, she said and urged the women to stand with the wrestlers and help them raise their voice.
“I am proud of these women wrestlers and all of us should stand with them,” Priyanka Gandhi said.
Earlier this week, she had voiced support for the protesting wrestlers and slammed the government, asking whether it wants to save the culprits in the matter.
The Congress general secretary had also said the pleas of the sportspersons, who enhance the country’s honour, were being ignored, and asserted that “when the arrogance of a party and its leaders” is sky high, then such voices are crushed.
Congress leaders such as Bhupinder Hooda, Deepender Hooda and Udit Raj had also joined the protesting wrestlers at Jantar Mantar earlier this week to express solidarity with them.
With the chorus of support for the protesting wrestlers growing, the Delhi Police on Friday filed two FIRs against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on allegations of sexual harassment levelled by seven women wrestlers.
The First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed hours after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Delhi Police, told a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha that a case will be registered on Friday.
While one FIR relates to allegations of a minor wrestler and was registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the other was related to outraging modesty.
After Mehta’s submission, the country’s top wrestlers, who have been on a sit-in at Jantar Mantar in Delhi since Sunday demanding action against Singh, rejoiced “the first step towards victory” but said they will continue their agitation. They demanded that the BJP MP be removed from all the positions he holds.
Singh has completed 12 years as the WFI chief and is ineligible to contest for another term.