In response to Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s call for protests, farmers’ and workers’ organisations have joined the protesting wrestlers at Jantar Mantar or held separate protests in the border regions of the National Capital.
Farmers from over three hundred Khap Panchayats and several farmers’ unions joined the wrestlers’ indefinite protests at Jantar Mantar over Sunday and Monday to demand the arrest of WFI chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over several sexual harassment charges, including child sexual harassment charges.
Farmers’ unions such as Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) reached Jantar Mantar on Sunday and more unions such as BKU (Krantikari) joined the protest on Monday. They have come from across Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
It was announced that moving forward, Khap Panchayats will be joining the wrestlers’ at Jantar Mantar every day until the demands are met. The wrestlers have been protesting at Jantar Mantar for action to be taken against Singh since April 23. They have given the government till May 21 to arrest Singh and meet their demands.
On Sunday, several farmers from BKU (Ekta Ugrahan), including the women’s contingent, were stopped by the police at Tikri border to prevent them from entering the National Capital and reaching the wrestlers’ protest. The Delhi Police deployed over 2000 personnel at Jantar Mantar and at the borders to prevent farmers from joining the protest. They did not allow any buses or tractor trolleys that held farmers to go through.
Despite this, around 350 women farmers met with the protesting wrestlers to extend support. Farmers across organisations such as BKU and SKM reached Jantar Mantar in large numbers and filled up the area. The Delhi Police used heavy barricading to thin the crowd and subjected all the entering protestors to facial recognition technology and high surveillance through a mobile CCTV control room equipped with 13 HD cameras.
Johinder Singh Ugraha, Rakesh Tikait, Darshan Pal, Baldev Singh Sirsa and other farmers’ leaders joined the wrestlers on the dais and spoke out against the BJP government’s complicity in the matter. They demanded that Singh be arrested immediately.
Tikait told the crowd that this will be a long fight but they will not back down. He pointed out that once a case is registered under the The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, the offender is to be arrested immediately. However, in the case of the wrestlers, no action has been taken yet. He further said that it is of great sadness that those who brought pride and international repute to the country are having to undergo such injustices. A roadmap is being prepared for the upcoming protests.
Wrestling star Vinesh Phogat added that the committee investigation into this matter has made a joke out of very serious sexual harassment allegations. They also took out a candle march in the evening.
VIDEO | "The protest will continue till these kids (protesting wrestlers) get justice but how we take it forward, that will be decided by all of us today," says Chaudhary Surender Solanki, Khap president Palam, on mahapanchayat at Jantar Mantar today. pic.twitter.com/D4AurXXNP8
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) May 7, 2023
Other organisations showed support for the wrestlers by holding protests and rally’s in their respective localities. Jan Sangarsh Manch, Haryana, held a demonstration at the old bus stand Thanesar, Kurukshetra, to demand the immediate arrest of Singh.
JSM leader Chandra Rekha addressed the crowd and stated that despite the case being registered under the POCSO Act, Singh has not even been removed from any positions of power, let alone arrested. Meanwhile, Singh has openly threatened and pressurised the seven women wrestlers who have registered complaints against him.
Student leader Kavita Vidrohi further pointed out that the Home Minister Amit Shah and Sports Minister Anurag Thakur have given complete political protection to Singh, who is a member of their party. She condemned the Delhi Police for cutting off electricity supply to the wrestlers sitting at the dharna, removing mobile toilets and preventing them from accessing beds in the rain, and demanded strict action against the police officers who harassed the wrestlers. The whole affair has exposed the Modi government does not actually care about women empowerment, despite the slogan – “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” (Save the Girl, Educate the Girl).
The protest was attended by many groups. Workers from MNREGA Mazdoor Union and Construction Work Mazdoor Mistry Union also participated in large numbers.