Sports minister meets wrestlers, June 15 deadline for completing investigation

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik have not competed in any international events in 2023. PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary

A lengthy meeting between the protesting wrestlers and India's sports minister has led to an agreement of sorts, with the government committing to complete the police investigation of the former head of the wrestling federation by June 15. That was one of the five demands made by the wrestlers, all conceded to by the minister, Anurag Thakur. The wrestlers, meanwhile, agreed to put their protest on hold till June 15.

The other demands were: elections to the WFI to be held by June 30; neither Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the former president being investigated for alleged sexual abuse, nor his associates would be able to stand for elections; the WFI would have an internal complaints committee, headed by a woman; and all police cases against the protesting wrestlers would be withdrawn.

This was the first meeting between the protesting wrestlers and Thakur since January, when the wrestlers had initially called off their protest.

After today's meeting, Bajrang Punia spoke about the assurances they'd received. "[The minister] has assured us that the police investigation will be completed by June 15 and asked us not to do any protests till that date," he said. "He has assured safety of both the men and women wrestlers who were/are at the protests and [FIRs] filed against us on May 28 will be withdrawn."

"Our protest is not over," he said. "We will now talk this out with the people supporting us, including the Khap panchayats and the women's, farmers', students' associations, and present what the minister said. We will then come out with a decision in 1-2 days."

"If the investigation doesn't end by June 15, we will continue our dharna," Bajrang said.

"We are happy this [meeting was called], but it should have happened earlier. What's happened to this country's children's, its girls, its athletes and what the police did to them on the roads and then filing an FIR on [us]... the country shares that pain with us. We will not resume training [till this is over]"

"All these issues were agreed by consensus," sports minister Thakur said.

Asked about the wrestlers' demand for Singh's arrest, Thakur said the investigation into the case will be completed and a chargesheet will be filed by June 15.

The meeting with the minister comes after he tweeted late on Tuesday night that he had invited them to have a discussion on the issues.

It comes a week after the wrestlers had travelled to Haridwar, and threatened to immerse their medals in the Ganga and subsequently go on an indefinite hunger strike. Khap panchayat and farmer leaders supporting their protest soon arrived and convinced them not to do the same.