with most Protest wrestlers standing firm There is a growing sense in the central government and the BJP that the lingering issue of sexual assault allegations against a party MP — among whom a minor has now withdrawn her allegations — needs to be urgently addressed.
An imperative is the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first US visit, from June 21 to 24, he will be hosted by President Joe Biden at the White House. “There is an urgency to resolve the issue of wrestlers before this,” said a source.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Sports Minister Anurag Thakur are working towards it, sources said.
There is uneasiness among party leaders over the protracted nature of the protests and the perception that the government has not responded to such a “sensitive” issue.
Shah’s meeting with the wrestlers Late last week was one such attempt by the government to address the issue. Even if there is no progress, the meeting is considered as progress.
“Although the party is of two minds on the allegations (against MP and Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Saran Singh) and the demands of the wrestlers, there is no doubt in our assessment that it has hurt our understanding,” said a senior party leader.
At least four senior leaders, including those from the government, who The Indian Express spoke to agreed that “things could have been handled better” and “it should not have been allowed to go this far”.
BJP MPs Maneka Gandhi and Pritam Munde and the party’s Hisar MP Brijendra Singh publicly supported the wrestlers and demanded justice for them.
A quick charge sheet by the Delhi Police and a move to court could be a way for both sides to cool down the heat and move towards a resolution, sources said.
A senior BJP leader said: “There is no reason for this protest to go so far. But I must say that no one expected the protest to last so long or gain such momentum. It is now seen as a women’s issue.
However, there seems to be a split in the party over the wrestlers. The demand is to arrest Brij BhushanBJP’s Kaisarganj MP
A section of leaders see a political angle to the wrestlers’ protest and say it stems from akhada politics to gain control over the wrestlers’ bodies. Some call it “Jat politics”.
While members of the Jat community from Haryana dominate the country’s wrestling field, Brij Bhushan is a powerful Rajput leader from Uttar Pradesh.
India’s leading wrestlers Sakshi Mallik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia have been protesting for over a month demanding the MP’s arrest.
The FIRs filed by seven female wrestlers, including a minor, allege harassment, sexual harassment, inappropriate touching and solicitation of sexual favors by Brij Bhushan, reported The Indian Express. He denied the allegations.
So far, the government has taken a stand that it is ready for a fair investigation and that the Delhi Police is investigating the case. Urging the wrestlers to repose faith in the probe, Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Anurag Thakur said: “The government also wants a fair probe. We all want justice, but for this we will have to wait until the legal process is completed.
After Delhi police cleared the protest site at Jantar Mantar and dragged the wrestlers into vans and detained them, the protesters were joined by farmers’ leaders from Jat-dominated Haryana and West Uttar Pradesh. The khap panchayats of the region have also announced their support to the wrestlers.
“Anti-BJP forces, both political and non-political, are subtly supporting the protests and making it a rallying point. They cite the success of the farmers’ agitation (against the controversial farm laws that were eventually rolled back by the central government). Now that more women leaders, including from the BJP, are speaking out in support of the wrestlers, it does not bode well for the party ahead of the polls,” said one from Uttar Pradesh. The BJP leader said, “The sooner this is resolved, the better.”