Sakshi Malik tearfully held her Olympic medal near her chest as she ready to immerse it within the waters of the Ganges River on Tuesday as a part of an ongoing combat towards sexual harassment in Indian wrestling. The 30-year-old grew to become India’s first feminine wrestler to win an Olympic medal in 2016, however seven years later, Malik, together with a bunch of Indian wrestlers, is asking for the arrest of Brij Bhushan Singh, the pinnacle of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and an influential Member of Parliament from the Bharatiya Janata Celebration—whom they allege of pervasive sexual misconduct over time. (Singh has denied the allegations.)
“For us, our medals are sacred, and so is the river Ganges,” the wrestlers stated in an official assertion on Tuesday. “This holy river is the proper custodian of our medals, not the system that shields the offender.”
The dramatic scenes continued to unfold within the holy metropolis of Haridwar in northern India till Naresh Tikait, an influential farm union chief, met with the wrestlers afterward Tuesday to persuade them to postpone the medal immersion till subsequent week. “Due to them, we maintain our head excessive within the worldwide sports activities enviornment,” Tikait advised the native press.
On Tuesday evening, the controversy escalated additional when United World Wrestling (UWW) formally condemned the remedy of Indian wrestlers and referred to as on authorities to “conduct an intensive and neutral investigation into the allegations.” The governing physique additionally reminded the Indian Olympic Affiliation to carry contemporary elections for a brand new chief of WFI inside 45 days, because it had promised in April, and warned that failing to take action might lead UWW to “droop” the federation and drive the athletes “to compete beneath a impartial flag.”
India’s Sakshi Malik celebrates after successful the Ladies’s Freestyle 62 kg Gold Medal match on the 2022 Commonwealth Video games on Aug. 5, 2022.
Zac Goodwin—PA Wire/Press Affiliation/AP
Sakshi Malik, an Indian wrestler who gained a bronze medal on the 2016 Summer season Olympics, is detained by the police throughout a protest towards Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh in New Delhi on Could 28.
The wrestlers’ protest has sparked an unprecedented reckoning with the sexual harassment of feminine Indian athletes. Wrestling is the nation’s most profitable sport within the Olympic enviornment, with wrestlers successful 6 of the 21 medals gained by Indian athletes up to now.
For feminine wrestlers, who principally hail from poor households within the northern farming state of Haryana, competing in skilled sports activities supplies monetary mobility and new alternatives. Many have been reluctant to talk out towards what activists name the pervasive situation of sexual harassment.
“We’ll proceed to protest as a result of the federal government will not be listening to us and we’ve not but obtained justice,” Malik tells TIME. “This combat is now not just for India’s feminine wrestlers, it’s for the daughters of India whose voices have been silenced again and again.”
How did the protests start?
In January, the wrestlers gathered exterior WFI headquarters in New Delhi after Vinesh Phogat, a two-time world champion, stated she had obtained a telephone name from younger feminine wrestlers alleging that Singh had sexually harassed them. Phogat stated at the least 10 girls have come ahead with such allegations, and that previous instances of sexual harassment reported to the authorities had both disappeared or prevented the athletes from competing once more.
Malik says that together with allegations of sexual harassment, Singh had additionally allegedly mistreated girls for years by way of sexist conduct like body-shaming, calling them “manly,” and making feedback about their athletic put on.
Since then, a number of wrestling champions together with Malik, Phogat, and Bajrang Punia have held sit-ins in Delhi to demand motion towards Singh. They’ve additionally opted out of championships and tournaments and threatened to return their medals to the federal government.
Indian wrestlers Sangeeta Phogat, left, and Vinesh Phogat, heart, are detained by the police whereas making an attempt to march to India’s new parliament throughout a protest towards Brij Bhushan Singh in New Delhi on Could 28.
Arun Thakur—AFP/Getty Pictures
India’s Vinesh Phogat celebrates after successful a match on the Commonwealth Video games in Coventry, Britain, on Aug. 6, 2022.
On Sunday, Delhi police detained Malik, Punia, and Phogat for marching to India’s new parliament constructing because it was being inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In viral footage and pictures, the police are seen pushing, shoving, and manhandling lots of the athletes and dragging them away to buses. The police have since filed instances towards the wrestlers for rioting and public dysfunction and cleared out the protest website, sparking criticism from many public figures for his or her actions.
Of their assertion on Tuesday, the wrestlers decried the police motion taken towards them. “Have feminine athletes dedicated some crime by asking for justice for the sexual harassment dedicated towards them?” they wrote.
Who’s Brij Bhushan Singh, and what motion has been taken towards him thus far?
Singh, who has led WFI for over a decade, continues to vehemently deny the allegations. “If a single allegation towards me is confirmed, I’ll cling myself. In the event you [wrestlers] have any proof, current it to the Courtroom and I’m prepared to just accept any punishment,” he stated throughout a press convention on Wednesday.
Singh was suspended from his place as WFI chief by the Indian Sports activities Ministry in January amid the allegations, which arrange a panel to supervise WFI’s actions. On April 25, the ministry stated that WFI lacked an inside complaints committee mandated by legislation. Nonetheless, it didn’t deal with the allegations towards Singh, who has since resumed presiding over wrestling tournaments.
In Could, the wrestlers petitioned the Indian Supreme Courtroom, arguing that Delhi police had did not register an official case towards Singh regardless of a number of complaints of sexual misconduct. Three days later, the police registered two instances towards Singh; he has thus far been questioned however not charged.
Activists of India’s opposition Congress celebration protest in Kolkata on Could 4, demanding the arrest of WFI chief Brij Bhushan Saran Singh.
Sayantan Chakraborty—Pacific Press/Shutterstock
Past the sexual assault allegations, there are at the moment 4 pending legal investigations towards Singh, together with one for tried homicide.
What’s subsequent for the wrestlers’ protest?
Malik says that the wrestlers’ protest will proceed to demand a change in WFI’s management in order that feminine wrestlers can compete in wrestling championships sooner or later “with none worry and hesitation.” Other than immersing their medals within the river, the wrestlers plan to go on an indefinite starvation strike in New Delhi.
Consultants say the wrestlers’ show of unity has shone a highlight on sexual harassment in Indian sports activities, and elevated strain on authorities to deal with it. A current Proper to Info Request, just like a Freedom of Info Request within the U.S., revealed that 45 complaints of sexual misconduct had been filed towards coaches and officers from the Sports activities Authority of India (SAI) from 2010 to 2020.
“This wrestlers’ protest, unprecedented in Indian sporting historical past, has uncovered to a wider public each fault line and fracture in our sporting constructions,” wrote Sharda Ugra, a famend Indian sports activities journalist.
Extra Should-Reads From TIME