Bank Unions AIBOC, AIBEA Denounce 28th May Attack on Wrestlers, Demand Justice
Moneylife Digital Team 05 June 2023
Terming the 28th May attack on the wrestlers as an assault on the principles of justice, human rights, and the spirit of the sport itself, AIBOC (All India Bank Officers' Confederation) and AIBEA (All India Bank Employees Association), denounced such acts of violence and aggression. The two apex bodies, representing more than 600K (thousand) bankers, have demanded justice for wrestlers protesting against the alleged repugnant acts of sexual harassment committed by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, former president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). Meanwhile, according to reports, Olympian wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat met Union home minister Amit Shah on Sunday night to discuss the matter related to their protest against Mr Singh.
 
The protesting wrestlers were manhandled and detained by Delhi police, and their arrangements at the protest site were dismantled. The wrestlers had gone to Haridwar, claiming that they wanted to drop their medals in the river Ganga. With many people requesting them not to do so, they handed the medals over to the farmers' leaders to take a call.
 
In a joint statement, Rupam Roy, general secretary of AIBOC, and CH Venkatachalam, general secretary of AIBEA, say, "...(we) urge the government to address the concerns raised by these athletes and take necessary and immediate actions against the accused. It is the duty of our society to protect our pride and ensure that justice prevails over felonies and fallacies of any kind."
 
"It is deeply distressing to witness such a heinous act of violence against individuals exercising their fundamental right to peaceful protest. These wrestlers, who have dedicated their lives to their sport and earned laurels for the country at the highest level of excellence, demonstrated immense courage in coming forward to highlight the issue of sexual harassment faced by athletes' most particularly the wrestlers. Their demand for justice and a safe environment for all athletes is not only justified but also crucial in fostering a healthy and inclusive sporting community. We, both the organisations, are unequivocal in our strong resentment and condemnation of the brutal misuse of forces by the present dispensation and their desperation to shield the culprit that shall surely blot the pages of history and posterity shall undoubtedly remember them for a wrong cause," it added.
 
Since 23 April 2023, prominent Indian wrestlers led by Olympians Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat have been staging a protest at the Jantar Mantar demanding the arrest of Mr Singh over sexual harassment of female athletes, including a minor.
 
On 28 May 2023, the protesting wrestlers were detained by the Delhi police during their march towards the new Parliament building. As the protesters tried to breach the security cordon, a fierce tussle broke out—the wrestlers and police pushed, shoved and grappled with one another.
 
The following day, the wrestlers threatened to discard their medals into the river Ganga in Haridwar and go on an indefinite hunger strike at the India Gate.
 
AIBOC and AIBEA say, "Our organisations stand for fairness, equality, and justice. We are committed to protecting the honour of women and are against any assault on the dignity of women. Our collective responsibility is to ensure that athletes are protected from any form of harassment and that their grievances are heard and addressed promptly and effectively."
 
These bank unions also urged all their members to come forward, join hands, and support the cause of the wrestlers who have been unjustly attacked. "Together, we can create a powerful movement that demands justice, accountability, and change. We also appeal to fellow citizens, sports organisations, and civil society groups to come forward and support the wrestlers in their fight for justice. Together, we can create an environment that respects and protects the rights of every individual, regardless of their background or profession, defying the ill-conceived notion of 'might is right."
 
Meanwhile, according to a report from IANS, the protesting wrestlers on Sunday night met the Union home minister to discuss the issue. "They shared their concern with the home minister. The meeting was long, and he listened to everything. But koi decision nahi hua abhi tak (no decision has been reached so far)," a source close to the wrestlers told IANS.
 
Last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) also condemned the alleged manhandling by Delhi police of protesting wrestlers, calling it 'disturbing' and urged the authorities to ensure the "well-being of the athletes" throughout the investigation against Mr Singh.
 
Close on the heels of a similar statement by United World Wrestling, the sport's world governing body, the IOC also urged the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to take all necessary action to protect the protesting wrestlers.
 
After the incident, UWW condemned the manhandling of the wrestlers in a strong statement and also threatened to suspend the Wrestling Federation of India if the election process is not completed within the 45-day deadline.
 
The IOA appointed a two-member ad-hoc committee of Suma Shirur and Bhupender Singh Bajwa to oversee the WFI's office. A retired judge from the high court will also be appointed to ensure fair and transparent voting.
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