India slaps criminal charges on wrestlers protesting against sexual abuse

New Delhi, May 29 (EFE).- Police in the Indian capital has pressed charges related to violence on athletes protesting against alleged sexual abuse within the Wrestling Federation of India, a day after they were violently prevented from taking a march to the parliament by authorities following a month of demonstrations.

The athletes, who on Sunday tried to march towards the Indian parliament, have been accused of causing disturbance and protesting illegally while the government was carrying out a ceremony to inaugurate the new legislative building.

“All facilities had been provided to the wrestlers at Jantar Mantar (protest site) for 38 days, but yesterday they violated the law despite all requests made to them,” Suman Nalwa, the deputy commissioner of Delhi Police, told reporters.

She added that the permission for the protest had been revoked.

The police has filed complaints against wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and other organizers of the protest, as per media reports.

“It took seven days for the Delhi police to register a complaint against the sexual aggressor Brij Bhushan but not even seven hours to file cases against us for protesting peacefully,” tweeted Sakshi Malik, a bronze medalist from the Rio Olympics, referring to WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Several wrestlers have been on the streets since April demanding the arrest and resignation of Singh – who is a lawmaker of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – over multiple allegations of sexual abuse and other irregularities.

The protests boiled over on Sunday when the athletes tried to walk from Jantar Mantar – a designated protest site in central Delhi – towards the parliament, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was inaugurating the new parliament.

The police have said that if the wrestlers seek permission for a new protest, they would be allotted a different venue than Jantar Mantar.

In January, many of India’s top wrestlers publicly denounced years of alleged sexual abuse within the WFI and directly accused its president of involvement in the matter.

The alleged sexual abuse and harassment were committed by Singh and coaches in the WFI with impunity, while the federation was aware of their practices, according to the athletes.

Meanwhile, Singh has continued to claim innocence and called the allegations a political conspiracy, while refusing to resign from office. EFE


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