Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s political career gave birth to many controversies, as he was one of the prominent names who got arrested in the demolition of the Babri Masjid case and was also booked under the anti-terrorism law TADA for harbouring the shooters of the Dawood Ibrahim gang. However, he was later acquitted for lack of evidence. He is currently at the centre of the accusations of sexual harassment by India’s top female wrestlers, wherein 7 female wrestlers, including 1 minor, have testified against him in an FIR. These wrestlers include Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat in the ongoing wrestlers’ protests at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Singh encountered as many as 38 cases against him under various charges, including theft, criminal intimidation, murder, attempted murder, rioting, kidnapping, etc.
This person has a lot of prominence in the BJP, and in spite of Modi’s clean political promises, there are many criminals who enjoy plum posts in the party. In January 2023, a group of Olympians and international wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, and others, organised a sit-in demanding the disbandment of the federation due to alleged sexual harassment of female wrestlers by Brij Bhushan. The protests resumed in April 2023 due to government inaction. The protesters demanded the police file an FIR against Brij Bhushan and his immediate arrest. The incidents of sexual harassment cited by protestors ranged from 2012 to 2022.
On April 28, 2023, only after the intervention of the Supreme Court did the Delhi Police register two FIRs against him. One of the FIRs was registered under the POCSO Act (The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012) for offences against a minor. A second FIR was registered on similar grounds on the complaint of the remaining six adult female wrestlers. The wrestlers told the media on an open platform that Brij Bhushan used to touch their breasts and stomachs sexually on the pretext of checking their breath in a police complaint on April 21, 2023. One of these women alleged that Brij Bhushan lifted her training jersey without her consent in 2018.
The six-time MP—who won five times on a BJP ticket and once for the SP—is a strongman whose writ runs large in eastern UP politics. He is actively associated with more than 50 educational institutions, including engineering, pharmacy, education, law, and others, that he established in Bahraich, Gonda, Balrampur, Ayodhya, and Shravasti districts. He is a strong man and no political party can afford to lose him. He knows his way and the game of survival, as well as the weaknesses of the ruling party.
Now his confidant, Sanjay Singh, has been elected Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president. Soon after this win, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh celebrated with supporters at his Delhi residence, where he raised a slogan: “Dabdaba to hai, dabdaba to rahega. Yeh to bhagwan ne de rakha hai (influence prevails and will continue). God has given this influence.” His Prateek, Bhushan Singh, the Gonda Sadar MLA, also joined the celebrations and raised a poster with the slogan written on it. In short, they hinted to the wrestlers that we are here to stay and continue with what we have done so far.
Though no longer the WFI president, his loyalist’s election shows Brij Bhushan will continue to have his say on how the organisation is run. Despite the nationwide uproar over the sexual harassment allegations levelled at him by women wrestlers earlier this year, he continued participating in party programmes and Parliament proceedings.
This entire series has sent shockwaves to female wrestlers. Wrestler Bajrang Punia wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that he is returning his Padma Shri award as a mark of protest over the results of the recent Wrestling Federation of India elections, where Sanjay Singh, a loyalist of the controversial Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, was elected as the president.
This entire episode has prompted Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik to quit the sport. In a press conference, the champion wrestler put her shoe on the table to show her protest and later cried on camera. Reacting to Sanjay Singh’s election to the body that controls wrestling in India, BJP MP Brij Bhushan assured there won’t be any vendetta politics against wrestlers who accused him of sexual harassment or protested to demand his removal as the WFI chief. Let’s see what happens next.