A crucial meeting between the top wrestlers, led by Olympic medallist 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, who are demanding arrest of WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The meeting was called by Thakur to break the deadlock as the wrestlers have been adamant that they will continue their agitation till Singh, who they have accused of sexual harassment, is arrested.
Vinesh Phogat, a prominent face of the protest, is not attending the meeting as she is in her village Balali in Haryana to attend a pre-scheduled 'panchayat'.
Punia, Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik and her wrestler husband Satyawart Kadiyan, arrived at the minister's house for the meeting.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, who has been supporting the wrestlers in their protest, is not part of the meeting.
The wrestlers had resumed their protest against Singh and the national federation on April 23 at Jantar Mantar.
They were removed from the protest site on May 28 when the police detained them for violation of law and order after they began their march to the new Parliament building without permission.
It is a second round of meetings between the government and protesting wrestlers in a space of five days. The wrestlers had met Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday night and apprised him of their demands.
While the government is willing to accept most of their demands, the arrest of Singh, who is also a BJP MP, remains the bone of contention.
The wrestlers had also resumed their duties with the Northern Railways, last week. Sakshi Malik and Punia are attached with Railways as OSD.
"The wrestlers look positive in their approach. We are hoping for a resolution today. The idea is that the sport should not suffer," said a sports ministry official ahead of the meeting.
We have not withdrawn support to wrestlers: Rakesh Tikait
Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait on Tuesday insisted that they have not withdrawn their support to the wrestlers and they have postponed the June 9 demonstration against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh only on the request of grapplers.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.