All India Trade Union Congress calls the Delhi Police’s act of arresting wrestlers undemocratic

The All India Trade Union Congress has called upon its unit to organise a protest against the oppression of wrestlers, calling the act of the Delhi Police for detaining the wrestlers at the instance of the Union Government undemocratic. 

ON May 28, the General Secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) Amarjeet Kaur issued a press statement condemning the repression of protesting women wrestlers and their allies by the Delhi Police. The AITUC has demanded the immediate arrest of Wrestling Federation of India president and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of Parliament Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been accused by seven women wrestlers, including a minor, of sexual harassment.

Yesterday, the Delhi police arrested the protesting wrestlers and their allies at Jantar Mantar for allegedly breaching security barricades placed by the police. The protestors had planned to march towards the new Parliament building which was being inaugurated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and conduct a women’s mahapanchayat there. The detainees include Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Poonia, who have won medals representing India at prestigious international tournaments and competitions.

The AITUC is one of the oldest trade union federations in India. Its statement notes:

AITUC condemns the oppression let loose on the women wrestlers and all those who were at Jantar Mantar at the protest site or were proceeding towards the site to join in the women panchayat which had been called today to press for their demand for justice.

The protesting wrestlers have been demanding the arrest of Singh. Two first information reports (FIRs) were lodged against Singh on April 28 under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage modesty), 354A (sexual harassment), 354D (stalking) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and under Section 10 (aggravated sexual assault) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2015. Separate FIRs were registered since one of the seven female wrestlers who have accused Singh of sexual harassment is a minor.

The protestors, who have been camped at Jantar Mantar since last month, had on May 8 given a 14-day ultimatum for Singh’s arrest. However, he is yet to be arrested by the Delhi Police.

The AITUC alleges that the “[Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh]-BJP government led by [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi” has been exposed for its facade of the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ slogan and “its naked expression of intolerance towards any criticism, opposition or even raising [of] voice seeking justice under the rule of law and constitutional rights”.

The AITUC also demands the release of all arrested wrestlers, and that heed be paid to the women wrestlers “who have raised the voice of women who face harassment at different levels but are restrained to ask for justice”.