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Rediff.com  » News » 'We know Bajrang Punia's political colours'

'We know Bajrang Punia's political colours'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
Last updated on: June 16, 2023 18:11 IST
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'These three wrestlers (Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik) are indirectly or directly part of the Congress.'

IMAGE: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra interacts with wrestlers Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and others during their protest against Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, April 29, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

"I don't think Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is that powerful. If he were so powerful, then whatever sections he has been charged under now (Sections 354, 354A and 354D of the Indian Penal Code) would not have happened. He has not been let scot-free, " media veteran Srinivasan Kannan, with over three decades of experience as a sports journalist, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.

What makes Brij Bhushan Singh, the BJP MP from Kaiserganj, the most powerful WFI president? Even the Delhi police took almost two months to file a chargesheet against him.

I don't agree. I want to correct you. He's no longer WFI president. His term has ended.

There is a 12 year period mandated by the National Sports Code 2011 formulated by the Government of India. As per the sports code, you can have a maximum of three terms. He has completed the three terms and the next elections (for the WFI presidency) are due on July 6. He's not part of it nor is anybody from his family part of it.

What made Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh a powerful WFI president since he took charge of the office? He was also charged under POCSO, but that charge has been cancelled by the Delhi police after the minor and her father changed their statements.

The POCSO thing (case) was a fraud. It was foisted upon him. In January (2023), when the wrestlers went on protest, it was basically (wrestlers) Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat; there was no minor (who filed a POCSO complaint against Singh and later withdrew it).

Suddenly in April, they said a minor has also been a victim which the Delhi police investigated.

The first thing about the minor is she's not a minor; she has three (different birth) age certificates. She's actually not at all a minor even at the time of the purported incident.

The minor's father then gave a statement that he was under pressure to act like that and make a complaint (under POCSO). And he withdrew his complaint.

The minor's father withdrew the complaint by saying that he was angry and gave that statement (POCSO complaint against Singh) which was withdrawn more than two weeks ago.

Doesn't that raise suspicions as to the father being under pressure from the MP for withdrawing the POCSO complaint against him?

No, I don't think there is any pressure (from Singh).

Being from Haryana, we all know Bajrang Punia's true political colours. He was part of the farmers' strike. He was sitting on the Singhu border. He was sitting in protest with Haryana farmers even three days ago after which the farmers blocked the roads.

We must know that all these three wrestlers are indirectly or directly part of the Congress.

Just because someone is affiliated to or supports a political party does it mean that the charges they are making are also false?

I cannot say that. I am not a lawyer.

The thing is when the three sat on a protest (at Jantar Mantar), nobody minded it. What was the flashpoint? Flashpoint was they broke the law; when Section 144 was on, they wanted to break the barricades, which is a crime.

They wanted to do all this on the day when the new Parliament building was being inaugurated, they wanted to gherao the new Parliament building.

They kept changing the narrative and they kept on saying arrest Brij Bhushan.

You cannot ask for someone's arrest because that is the job of the police. That is the job of the court. You can at the most say that the FIR was not registered.

But why have you been waiting for so long? All your complaints date back (to alleged crimes of sexual assault and molestation that occurred) five years, seven years. So why did you not file a case that time? You could have gone to any local police station and filed it then.

The wrestlers have said that they feared Brij Bhushan Singh. He was powerful and so they were afraid to take him on. They feared the power wielded by the then WFI president.

This is your interpretation.

No, this is what the wrestlers have been clarifying about why they delayed filing complaints of sexual assault and sexual harassment against Brij Bhushan Singh.

I don't think Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is that powerful.

If he were so powerful, then whatever sections he has been charged under now (Sections 354, 354A and 354D of the Indian Penal Code) would not have happened. He has not been let scot free. Charges have been filed against him and the case will now be fought in a court of law.

IMAGE: Congress leader Sachin Pilot addresses the media after he met the wrestlers during their protest against then Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, May 19, 2023. Photograph: Rahul Singh/ANI Photo

Would you agree that the Delhi police took its own time to file the chargesheet against Singh after the complaints were filed and an FIR was lodged?

No. The Delhi police had to follow due diligence and do due investigation. They have done it. They called several witnesses and recorded their statements. One cannot blame the Delhi police for any delay.

The (Union) sports minister (Anurag Thakur) had assured them (the wrestlers) that by (June) 15 action will be taken (against Singh) and action has been taken (the chargesheet has been filed).

ow, you must let the court of law decide (if he is guilty of all the charges filed against him).

When the Commonwealth Games happened (in Delhi in 2010, the) Congress was in power (at the Centre) at that time. It was not that (the head of 2010 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Suresh) Kalmadi (who was accused of a scam in the CWG 2010) was immediately put behind bars; he had to appear before the CBI.

It was not that the very first time he appeared before the CBI that they arrested him. It happened after he was probed by the CBI a couple of times.

As regards what the Delhi police is doing I am nobody to say the Delhi police did a good job or a bad job. They realise the case is high profile and they must have taken all the measures to investigate it thoroughly.

They even took the so-called, purported, victim to his house; whatever had to be done, they have done it.

The main case was related to POCSO and it has fallen flat.

Would you have any reason to believe that the BJP government at the Centre is trying to shield its MP?

This is a figment of (the media's) imagination. Nobody is trying to shield anybody; the law will take its course.

What do you think is likely to happen to Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh in this case now?

He is no longer a part of the WFI; he has quit. Nobody from his family is trying to contest. They have appointed a retired judge to oversee the fairness of the electoral process. He will vet who are eligible to vote, which state associations will be eligible to vote. This retired judge is basically someone who has nothing to do with the Wrestling Federation of India or sports.

Whatever has to be done now will be done by the court of law. There is nothing more now the wrestlers or the Delhi police can do. They have filed the chargesheet and from the chargesheet the charge-frame does not happen overnight.

When you file a chargesheet you have to go to court and the charges are framed (against the accused); that is called charge-frame. That process does not happen in a day or a week.

It's a judicial process and it takes its own time. There have been cases dragging on for so many years. People forget the cases as they keep running from pillar to post.

Will this case also head the same way?

How can I say that? You are putting words in my mouth.

I told you repeatedly that the judicial process is on. Chargesheet has been filed. How long the (judicial process in the) court will take I don't know. That is up to the due process of law which will be followed. But the process will definitely be diligent and elaborate.

Forget Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's case. How long does any case that goes to a court take?

You have gone to the lower court and now there will be cross examination; there will be hearings. So, where is the hurry in it?

You want him (Singh) to be out of WFI and he is already gone. You wanted him not to have any say in the day-to-day affairs (of the WFI) and that is what has happened. There is an ad hoc committee that is looking into it now. What more can you ask for?

Do you believe that the women wrestlers' charge of sexual assault and molestation have an iota of truth in them?

I can only be a neutral observer in this case. To allege or to sledge is upon the two women wrestlers (Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik). Bajrang Punia obviously has not faced any kind of harassment. He is only supporting them.

There is no POCSO now. If it were POCSO, then he (Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh) would have been arrested. The father (of the minor) has withdrawn the complaint.

When the FIR was filed under POCSO, the Delhi police didn't immediately act against Singh. Why?

You will have to ask the Delhi police.

Shouldn't he have been immediately arrested?

I can't comment on it. You will have to ask the Delhi police.

How can I comment on what the Delhi police is doing; whether they are doing a right job or wrong, it is not for me to sit in judgement and comment upon it.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com