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 upon 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 the second round of meeting 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.
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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.