Scuffle between wrestlers and Delhi police at protest site, two wrestlers injured

Sangita Phogat reacts while speaking to the media after the scuffle that broke out between wrestlers and the police at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday night. PTI Photo

A scuffle broke out at Jantar Mantar between the protesting wrestlers and Delhi Police around 11 pm on Tuesday night, the eleventh day of their sit-in protest against the WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Addressing an impromptu press conference post the incident, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia spoke about how two of their fellow protesters had been injured and one had to be taken to hospital with a bleeding head (Dushyant Phogat, Vinesh's brother).

According to the wrestlers, the scuffle started when they were trying to get in foldable cots to sleep on in their protest site - since their mattresses had been soaked in the day's rain. They said that the Delhi Police had objected to this before starting to push and abuse them including the women wrestlers.

An emotional Vinesh said, "If you want to kill us, then kill us [...] 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."

"Where were female police officers? How can the male officers push us like that. We are not criminals," she said. "We do not deserve such treatment. The police officer who was drunk hit my brother."

Sitting alongside her, Bajrang Punia asked the watching public to reach Jantar Mantar on Wednesday morning to show their support. "I request everyone to reach Delhi by morning. This is the time. If not now, then when. This is question of dignity of our daughters. People like Brij Bhushan (WFI President) are roaming free despite being a criminal and all this is happening to us," Bajrang said.

Delhi Police, meanwhile, issued a statement on the incident: "During the protest at Jantar Mantar, Mr. Somnath Bharti came at the protest site along with folding beds without permission. On intervention, the supporters became aggressive in trying to get the beds out of the truck. Subsequently, a minor altercation took place in which Mr. Somnath Bharti along with 2 others was detained."

Responding to this statement, Bajrang denied that Bharti, a Delhi MLA of the AAP party, was involved in the incident. He said, "CCTV footage can show he was not there when it happened. We had ordered the beds [ourselves], we were bringing the beds inside."

The scuffle broke out hours after Indian Olympic Association president PT Usha met the protesting wrestlers, offering help and support. After the visit, however, the wrestlers reaffirmed their stand, that the protests would continue until the arrest of WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh., who's accused of sexually harassing seven women wrestlers, including a minor.

When asked about the nature of Usha's visit, Bajrang said, "She told us that 'I'm standing with you, and I will help you get justice'. She assured us that she will do everything she can to help us."

He added, "We told her that we want justice. We are not fighting against government or anybody else, we do not have connections with any (political) party or opposition, we are sitting here only for wrestling."

However, Bajrang reiterated that the protests would continue unless the police arrests the WFI chief.