Violence at wrestlers protest in Jantar Mantar; cops restrict entry to site

Violence erupted at the wrestlers’ protest site at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, with the wrestlers alleging that a group of drunk Delhi Police personnel targeted them late last evening when they wanted to bring in mattresses and folding cots to sleep at night. 

Olympic medallist and wrestler Bajrang Punia speaking to the media after the clash with Delhi Police.
Olympic medallist and wrestler Bajrang Punia speaking to the media after the clash with Delhi Police. Photo: Connected to India

The policemen beat them up and abused the women wrestlers, they said. Several grapplers were hit on the head and two of them sustained injuries. One person who fell unconscious had to be taken to the hospital.

One of the wrestlers leading the protest, Olympian medallist Bajrang Punia uploaded a short video to Twitter in which he is seen along with Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik. 

“I request people to not get into altercations with the police and to not try and enter Jantar Mantar as the police are restricting entry to the site till 6 am,” he said.

."We have told the wrestlers to give complaint on their grievances and will take appropriate action…medical check-up of the policeman on whom they've raised allegations, being conducted…": DCP Pranav Tayal tol news agency ANI.

An official Delhi Police statement read, "During the protest at Jantar Mantar, 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 Somnath Bharti along with 2 others was detained."

Earlier, Vinesh Phogat broke down live on camera this evening after the reported clash with Delhi Police personnel. 

"We were trying to set up wooden foldable beds since the floor was wet. The cop jumped in and stopped us – didn't wait for a woman cop and just started pushing us. Some of us were hit on the head with a stick," Olympian Vinesh Phogat said at an impromptu post-midnight press conference.

"Did we win medals for the nation to see such days… Where were the women cops when the constable was pushing us around?" Vinesh added, breaking down.

Such violence is a first for Jantar Mantar, the designated protest site of the national capital. Visuals from the spot showed protesters arguing with uniformed members of the Delhi Police around midnight. Many identified one of the policemen who allegedly targeted them on camera. The injured wrestler was later identified as Rahul Rao.

"A drunk policeman, Dharemendra, abused Vinesh Phogat and got involved in a scuffle with us," former wrestler Rajveer was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.

Senior Aam Aadmi Party leader Somnath Bharti said he was detained by the police for supporting the wrestlers' demand for mattresses.

The wrestlers have levelled allegations of sexual harassment against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. 

Brij Bhushan has denied all the allegations, claiming the charges are baseless, but said he would resign if Prime Minister Narendra Modi or BJP asks him to.

The Delhi Police filed two FIRs against him last week. One of them has been registered under the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on a minor's complaint.