A scuffle allegedly broke out between the wrestlers staging a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and some police personnel, leading to head injuries to a couple of protesters.
The protesting wrestlers alleged that they were manhandled by the police personnel.
Four people, including Congress leader Deepender Hooda and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Somnath Bharti, were detained following the incident, police said.
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The wrestlers have been staging a sit-in at Jantar Mantar since April 23.
They have levelled allegations of sexual harassment against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is also a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Uttar Pradesh.
In a video being circulated on social media platforms, some of the protesters can be heard accusing police personnel of attacking two wrestlers under the influence of alcohol.
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The accused policeman is seen sitting in the video, while the protesters allege that his colleagues were mute spectators.
Students from all across delhi called for a protest in our solidarity. They were manhandled and detained by the police. The female students were threatened and harassed by police under the detention but they will continue to fight for us. #wrestlersprotest #istandwithchampions pic.twitter.com/lUPWTFP6gX
— Sakshee Malikkh (@SakshiMalik) May 3, 2023
Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Pranav Tayal said Bharti came to the protest site with folding beds without permission.
On being asked about the beds, his supporters became aggressive and tried to get the beds from a truck. Subsequently, a minor altercation took place following which Bharti, along with two others, was detained, the officer added.
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Another senior police officer said, “A few men tried to bring cots to the protest site. When the policemen asked them about the cots, they got aggressive and the protesters joined them. They wrongfully restrained a policeman and accused him of being drunk, which was not the case. Police personnel are at the site and the situation is now under control. No protester was beaten up.”
Barricades have been put up around the protest site and no one is being allowed in.
Making allegations against the police, former wrestler Rajveer told PTI, “The mattresses got wet due to rain, so we were bringing folding beds for sleeping, but the police did not allow that. Drunk policeman Dharmendra abused Vinesh Phogat and got involved in a scuffle with us.”
“They started hitting us. Bajrang Punia’s brother-in-law Dushyant and Rahul suffered head injuries. The police did not let doctors reach the site. Even the women constables were misbehaving with us,” he alleged.
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“I was abused and pushed around by policemen. Where were the women police personnel?” asked Phogat.
Punia’s wife Sangeeta also claimed that she was pushed around by policemen.
Punia has called for farmers and their leaders to assemble at the protest site on Thursday morning.
“Delhi Police ki gundagardi ab nahi chalegi (Delhi Polices high-handedness will not work anymore). We will call farmers to assemble here in numbers. We will not tolerate it anymore. Tractors or trolleys. whatever you get, just come here,” he said.
Shocked and appalled by the misbehaviour meted out to the protesting wrestlers by the Delhi Police, an emotionally distraught Phogat said they are not criminals and do not deserve such disrespect.
The scuffle broke out around 11 pm when the wrestlers were bringing folding beds for sleeping and the on-duty police personnel started asking questions about it.
According to the wrestlers, the police personnel behaved badly with them and even abused the women wrestlers.
“If you want to kill us, kill us,” Phogat said with tears in her eyes during a late-night media interaction.
“Did we win medals for the country to see this day? We have not even eaten our food. Does every man have a right to abuse women? These policemen are holding guns, they can kill us,” she said.
“Where were the female police officers? How can the male officers push us like that? We are not criminals. We do not deserve such treatment. The police officer who was drunk hit my brother,” the World Championship medallist said.
Punia exhorted farmers and members of the public to reach Jantar Mantar in their support.
“I request everyone to reach Delhi by Thursday morning. This is the time. If not, then when? This is a question of dignity of our daughters. People like Brij Bhushan are roaming freely despite being criminals and all this is happening to us,” he said.
Asked for more details of the late-evening development, Punia said, “CCTV cameras must be there. The footage will make it clear.”
Asked specifically if Bharti had brought the folding beds, as being claimed by police, he said, “The CCTV footage will show that he was not there when it happened. We had ordered the beds, we were bringing those inside.”
The protesters have been demanding criminal action against Singh for the alleged sexual harassment and intimidation of seven female wrestlers, one of whom is a minor.
The Delhi Police filed two FIRs against the WFI president on Friday on the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him by the wrestlers.
VIDEO | Ruckus between protesting wrestlers and Delhi Police at Jantar Mantar. More details are awaited. pic.twitter.com/AIS5zgH4My
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) May 3, 2023
(With agency inputs)