IMAGE: Olympian and one of the leading figures among the protesting wrestlers, Sakshi Malik arrives at Sports Minister Anurag Thakur’s residence on Wednesday. Photograph: ANI/Twitter
A crucial meeting between top wrestlers led by Bajrang Punia and Sports Minister Anurag Thakur began at his residence on Wednesday morning as the government continued its effort to strike a deal with the protesting grapplers against outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The meeting was called upon by Thakur to break the impasse which has been going on for more than a month.
It is the second round of meetings between the government and protesting wrestlers, who met Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday night.
Earlier, in a tweet post-midnight Tuesday, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur said the government was “willing to have a discussion with the wrestlers on their issues”.
“I have once again invited the wrestlers for the same,” he said.
The wrestlers have been agitating against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a BJP MP, and demanded his arrest. Some women wrestlers have accused him of sexually harassing them, charges he has denied.
Earlier, the Delhi Police on Tuesday had recorded statements of the associates of Singh and those working at his residence in Uttar Pradesh’s Gonda as part of the investigation into the allegations against him.
The officials also said that the girl, whose statement was the basis of a case being registered against Singh under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, has recorded a fresh statement under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) section 164.
We have not withdrawn support to wrestlers: Rakesh Tikait
IMAGE: Bharatiya Kisan Union National Spokesperson Rakesh Tikait addressing the media as he comes in support of protesting wrestlers at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi on May 6. Photograph: ANI Photo
Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait on Tuesday insisted that they have not withdrawn their support to the wrestlers and they have postponed the June 9 demonstration against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh only on the request of grapplers.
It was reported that since farmer leaders are unhappy with the wrestlers for keeping them in dark about their meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, they have decided to withdraw their support to the wrestlers.
Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik had met Shah on Saturday night to apprise him of their demands.
The farmer leader, however, clarified that they are still supporting the wrestlers.
“Our June 9 demonstration in Delhi remains postponed at the moment. We will wait for the outcome of meeting between government officials and protesting wrestlers. We (farmers’ union) are in support of the wrestlers and will continue with our support to them,” Tikait told PTI.
Asked if he is aware of the next meeting between wrestlers and the government representatives, he replied, “I do not know when the next meeting is scheduled or if it will even happen.”
While the government, reportedly, had shown willingness to accept most of their demands during the Saturday meeting, it did not agree for immediate arrest of the WFI Chief Singh, who the wrestlers have accused of sexual exploitation.
The wrestlers, though, remained adamant on their demand regarding the arrest of Singh, and the meeting remained inconclusive.
Asked if he was kept in dark about the meeting between wrestlers and the home minister, Tikait said, “We were aware of the recent meeting and have been in coordination with the wrestlers. We have been asked to hold on any major protest/demonstration.”
Tikait had announced the Delhi ‘dharna’, demanding arrest of BJP MP and WFI chief Singh during the Mahapanchayat held in Kurukshetra on Friday. They had threatened to step up the agitation and bring the protesting wrestlers back to Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, if the government doesn’t act.