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Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik released after rioting charges

Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia along with other protesters were booked for rioting and obstructing public servant in discharge of duty on Sunday after a scuffle with security personnel who tried to stop them from marching to the new Parliament building as it was being inaugurated. Soon after, the Delhi Police cleared the site of their over-month-long sit-in at Jantar Mantar and said they will not be allowed to return there.

All the female wrestlers who were detained have been released and the male wrestlers will also be released soon, a senior officer said later in the evening.

The police said that 700 people were detained across the national capital. As many as 109 protesters, including the three wrestlers, were detained at Jantar Mantar.

Opposition parties slammed the central government over the “manhandling” of wrestlers, who had resumed their agitation against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on April 23 demanding his arrest for alleged sexual harassment of several women grapplers, including a minor.

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said that the “arrogant king is crushing the voice of the people” on the streets as the “coronation” is over and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it is “shameful our champions are treated in this manner”.

Elaborate security measures had been made after the wrestlers’ call for a women’s ‘Mahapanchayat’ outside the Parliament for which they did not have permission.

Chaotic scenes were witnessed at the dharna site at Jantar Mantar, barely three kilometres from the new Parliament building that was inaugurated by the prime minister, as protesters and police personnel shoved and pushed each other when the Phogat sisters, Sakshi Malik and others tried to breach the barricades.

Immediately after the wrestlers and other protesters were pushed into buses and taken to different locations, the police personnel began clearing the protest site by removing cots, mattresses, coolers, fans and the tarpaulin ceiling along with other belongings of the wrestlers.

Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Dependra Pathak claimed the protesters ignored repeated requests and warnings and “wrestled” with police personnel who tried to stop them.

“Today was an important day for the country as the new Parliament building was to be inaugurated and despite warnings and repeatedly urging protesters at Jantar Mantar to not march beyond the protest site, they continued to do so,” he said, adding the behaviour of the wrestlers was “highly irresponsible”.

“They were out to disturb the preparations made by the security agencies,” the senior police officer told PTI.

“The detained protesting wrestlers will not be allowed to continue with their dharna at Jantar Mantar. The entire protest venue at Jantar Mantar has been cleared,” Pathak said.

Taking to Twitter, Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, however, vowed to continue their sit-in at Jantar Mantar.

“Our movement is not over…. we will start our satyagraha at Jantar Mantar. In this country, there will be no dictatorship but there will be satyagraha held by women wrestlers,” she tweeted in Hindi.

Vinesh Phogat told PTI, “They (police) have released me, Sakshi (Malik) and Sangeeta (Phogat). The rest are still under detention.”

The police claimed the wrestlers broke and scaled the barricades, misbehaved and pushed the police personnel including the women constables.

Later, the police filed an FIR against the protesting wrestlers and their supporters.

“The FIR has been registered at Parliament Street police station under New Delhi district against the organisers of the protest, including wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phog


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