Indian athletes who have been protesting for days at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar were roughed up at the protest site by Delhi Police personnel late at night on Wednesday, May 3. Sakshi Joshi, a journalist, was also reportedly manhandled by the police and detained for several hours. She tweeted videos depicting the events that took place.
In the video Sakshi posted after her ordeal, she says that the police tried to stop her from filming the protest on her phone and that when she questioned it, several women police officers roughed her up, pushed her, and tore her clothes. Sakshi further says that she was taken to the Mandhir Marg police station where she was detained until 1:30 am.
Sakshi also questions Delhi Police’s behaviour towards her. In the footage from outside the Mandhir Marg police station, she says, “I am standing here on the road. It is 1:30 am in the night. I have to go home from here. They have locked the police station gate as well. And they call themselves the police.”
Referring to herself, she further says in the video, “They have detained a reporter, torn her clothes, taken her to a police station, and then let her go after shutting the gate. Wow.”
The Press Club of India has condemned the manhandling of Sakshi, demanding immediate action against the police personnel involved.
There has also been wide reportage of alleged assault against two protesting wrestlers by the Delhi police from the same night. A Delhi-based journalist TNM spoke to said that the police resorted to violence on the night of May 3 after the protestors attempted to take wooden cots to the protest site.
“The protestors have remained at Jantar Mantar night and day since they began their sit-in on April 24. They had been sleeping on mattresses on the ground, but due to heavy rains, the mattresses got wet. That’s why they wanted to bring in cots. The police refused to allow this. Two male wrestlers suffered head injuries due to police violence, but the cops wouldn’t even allow the ambulance into the protest site. Later, the police themselves took them away,” the journalist said.
The journalist also told TNM that the police cut off Jantar Mantar access to supporters and the media, adding, “They put up barricades to stop people from going in. Only about 25 to 30 protesters were inside.” Earlier this morning, allegations that one of the policemen was drunk before the violence broke out was also reported. The Delhi Police, however, denied these allegations to PTI.
Several of India’s top wrestlers including Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, along with Asian and Commonwealth Games medallist Vinesh Phogat have been protesting for the past eleven days demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India Chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, against whom there are allegations of sexual harassment. Seven women wrestlers have also filed a complaint against him.
The Sports Ministry had earlier formed a five-member committee to investigate the allegations, and it submitted its report in the first week of April, but the findings have not yet been made public.
The wrestlers had called off their protests at Jantar Mantar in January this year after the announcement of the five-member committee being formed. They returned to Jantar Mantar on April 24, demanding that the committee report be made public and Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh be arrested. They also accused the government of not responding to repeated attempts to contact them.
On May 4, the day after the alleged police assault on the protesting wrestlers and Sakshi Joshi, the Supreme Court heard a petition filed by three women wrestlers and closed the plea on the grounds that an FIR has already been registered against Brij Bhushan.
The court also added that the wrestlers were at liberty to approach the Delhi High Court or a magisterial court regarding any further grievances, Live Law reported. The wrestlers reportedly said that they respect the apex court’s decision, but intend to carry on their protest.
Several political parties including the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have offered their support to the protesting wrestlers.