Top wrestlers launch protest as Phogat reveals BJP MP-cum-WFI chief sexually exploited sportswomen, coaches

News Network
January 19, 2023

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New Delhi: Top Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Anshu Malik and Bajrang Punia are among a group of sportspersons who have accused Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Kaiserganj, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, of sexual harassment and physical abuse.

Singh is president of the Wrestling Federation of India. He has denied the allegations and told ANI that if such a thing has indeed happened, he will “hang” himself. In 2021, Singh had been caught on video slapping a wrestler at the Under-15 Nationals in Ranchi.

The wrestlers, who sat in an unprecedented protest at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, pointed to Singh’s alleged “dictatorship” in running the federation, noting that mistreatment of wrestlers had been going on for years. Among the 30 gathered were also Sarita Mor, Sangeeta Phogat, Satyawart Malik, Jitender Kinha, and Commonwealth Games medallist Sumit Malik, according to India Today.

“Women wrestlers have been sexually harassed at national camps by coaches and also the WFI president,” Vinesh Phogat said, stressing that the WFI president is also involved in the sexual harassment of “so many girls.”

Some coaches who the federation considers “favourites” misbehave with women coaches too, Vinesh said.

“Today I have said this, I don’t know if I will be alive tomorrow. People in WFI are very powerful,” Vinesh was quoted by Indian Express as having said.

Part of Haryana’s Phogat wrestling family, Vinesh is the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in both Commonwealth and Asian Games. She has multiple golds from the World Wrestling Championships. Vinesh’s cousin, wrestler Babita Phogat and her uncle, Mahavir Phogat, had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2020.

Vinesh reportedly said that she had been trying to get the federation to listen to her concerns for a decade now. She told ANI that she and other wrestlers are ready to “submit evidence” to the prime minister and any high court that might ask for it.

“This is not fair and we have been silently tolerating this. But not anymore,” Bajrang Punia, who has won Olympic Bronze, told Indian Express.

Punia also added that wrestlers have taken care not to involve politicians in their protest, but told the news agency PTI that while their grouse was not against a political outfit or the Sports Authority of India, this was going to be a “fight to the finish.”

“Wrestlers are being harassed by the Wrestling Federation of India. Those who are a part of WFI know nothing about the sport,” Punia told reporters as well.

Wrestler Sakshi Malik, also an Olympic medalist and related to the Phogats, said that the wrestlers are ready to “speak to the prime minister and home minister to reveal details.”

“Whole federation should be removed so that the future of new wrestlers is safe. A new federation should come into existence,” she said.

MP Singh has responded to the allegations by asking Vinesh Phogat why she wore “a costume with a company’s logo on it” at the Olympics.

“Is there any person in front who can say that the Federation harassed any athlete?” he asked news agency ANI. He also said that there has been “no incident of sexual harassment” and that he would hang himself if such a thing has happened. 

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News Network
January 28,2023

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Hassan, Jan 28: There seems to be a conundrum within the JD(S) and its 'first family' led by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda over selection of the party candidate to Hassan assembly segment for the upcoming Karnataka polls.

The seat is turning out to be a major bone of contention, as Gowda's daughter-in-law Bhavani Revanna, who had thrown her hat in the ring, has not relented, despite JD(S) legislature party leader and her brother-in-law H D Kumaraswamy making it clear that she will not be fielded.

Bhavani Revanna, a former Hassan zilla panchayat member, is the wife of Kumaraswamy's elder brother and former minister H D Revanna. Two days after Bhavani Revanna publicly claimed that her name had been finalised by the party for the Hassan seat and a formal announcement will be made soon, Kumaraswamy on January 25 said her contest was not necessary there (in the constituency) as the party has a capable candidate.

JD(S), which has already announced a list of 93 candidates for the assembly polls due by May, is yet to finalise one for Hassan constituency. Hassan is the home district of Deve Gowda and the party in 2018 assembly polls had won in six out of seven segments other than the Hassan seat, which BJP's Preetham Gowda secured, making it the first ever win for the saffron party in the Vokkaliga-dominated district.

Despite Kumaraswamy's statement, according to party sources, Bhavani Revanna has not backed down and continued her tour in the constituency as she took part in a temple event on Friday. Some sources even said the Hassan candidate issue has now reached JD(S) patriarch Deve Gowda, who will now have the final say on the matter.

Bhavani's husband H D Revanna's conspicuous silence on the developments has led to some amount of speculation about the predicament within the Gowda family on the issue. Though Revanna's elder son and Hassan MP Prajwal Revanna had, soon after his mother's claim to be the candidate, maintained that Deve Gowda will decide and everyone will abide by it, he hasn't reacted after Kumaraswamy's statement that she will not be the candidate.

When reporters tried to speak to her after the temple event, Bhavani Revanna said she did not wish to give any reaction for now. "Let whoever say anything, I will not react... I will not speak politics, I have come here for worship... I don't know much about the developments as of now. Let's see in the days to come," she said.

When a question was put to her that people had a desire that she should contest from the seat, Bhavani said: "Let's see in the future how the god's and everyone's grace will be... Let's see, I will speak in the future." As she served food to people who attended the temple event, announcements were made on the loudspeaker calling her "Next MLA Bhavani Amma".

Kumaraswamy on Thursday and Friday too reiterated his stand making it clear that when there is a "capable" candidate in a constituency, there is no question of imposing someone from the Gowda family. "Why are you (media) in a confusion on this, I have already said...our family members will contest where we don't have a capable candidate, to protect the interest of our workers. Where there are suitable candidates, such a need won't be there. If such a situation comes, I will tell you," he told reporters on Friday.

Stating that he has said what he had to regarding the Hassan ticket issue and that the rest will sit in the family and decide within the party framework, Kumaraswamy said, "Ultimately Deve Gowda is the one who issues the B-form for the candidate. There is a parliamentary board and there are leaders," he said, rejecting any misunderstanding or conflict within the family.

"Everything will be resolved smoothly," he added. H P Swaroop, a former Hassan zilla panchayat vice-president and son of former MLA late H S Prakash, is said to be the "capable candidate", whom Kumaraswamy is keen to field.

Swaroop too has been visiting villages along with his supporters. Stating that he is trying to get a ticket from JD(S), Swaroop earlier this week said "there seems to be confusion among people and workers following this announcement by Bhavani Revanna, but I'm saying let the ticket be officially declared..." He said that he has high regards for Deve Gowda and Revanna, and there is no question of him looking at an option of going to another party.

Meanwhile, taking a dig at the JD(S) on the whole issue, BJP national general secretary C T Ravi mockingly said he has a desire to invite Bhavani Revanna to contest from Holenarasipur (her husband Revanna's seat) on the party's ticket. "I have seen Bhavani Revanna's statement, also Kumaraswamy's. I don't want to create a rift within the family, or else I had a desire to tell Bhavani akka (elder sister) that there is no better candidate than her for Holenarasipur and become a candidate for the seat from our party. But I don't want to create a fight between Revanna and Bhavani akka, so I won't say anything," he said.

Asked about C T Ravi's statement, Bhavani Revanna said, "You (media) should ask him, I don't know about it..." Kumaraswamy, in response to Ravi's statement, said the BJP is "used to dividing the house". "They are someone who divide the country. Won't they look for dividing a house? But they won't be able to divide Deve Gowda's house, they might be thinking they can, but it is not possible. They cannot divide us," the former chief minister said.

Some political observers are of the opinion that the perception about JD(S) being too family centric is one of its major drawbacks. According to JD(S) sources, Kumaraswamy wants to beat this perception. It is with this intention that he had tried to justify his earlier decisions to give ticket to his wife Anitha Kumaraswamy to contest polls in 2008, 2013 and 2018 by citing lack of suitable candidate, party pride and demand by workers as the reason for her contesting the seat, while denying the same for Bhavani.

However, he has already announced his son Nikhil Kumaraswamy as the candidate from Ramanagara for the assembly polls. Eight members of Gowda's immediate family are in active politics. Gowda, who is the JD(S) supremo, is also Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, while his son Kumaraswamy is a former chief minister and sitting MLA from Channapatna. Kumaraswamy's wife Anitha is MLA from Ramanagara segment, and his son Nikhil, who is the JD(S) youth wing president, had unsuccessfully contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Mandya.

The party supremo's elder son H D Revanna is a former minister and current MLA from Holenarsipura, his wife Bhavani Revanna was a member of the Hassan Zilla Panchayat, and their sons Prajwal and Suraj are MP from Hassan and an MLC, respectively. The Gowda family has its representation in all the four major houses of public representatives - Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council.

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News Network
January 16,2023

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Bengaluru, Jan 16: The Congress in Karnataka on Monday promised Rs 2,000 a month to every woman head of households if the party is voted to power in the State.

The announcement was made at a convention attended by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who said Rs 24,000 a year would be directly credited to their bank accounts under "Gruha Lakshmi Yojana", an "unconditional universal basic income".

The promise comes within days of the Congress making an announcement to provide 200 units of free power every month to each household in the State, where Assembly elections are due by May.

‘Gruha Lakshmi Yojana’ is an attempt of the Congress party to share the "burden of the exorbitant" LPG prices and the "costly daily expenses" that a woman has to bear, the party said.

The Congress wants every woman of the State to be empowered and capable of standing on her own feet and also taking care of her children. The party wants to provide financial independence to each woman of Karnataka, it said.

More than 1.5 crore women would benefit from this scheme, the party said.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said a separate manifesto for women would be released in the State and alleged rampant corruption in the BJP-ruled State.

“I am told that the situation in Karnataka is very shameful. I am told that your Ministers are taking 40 per cent commission on jobs,” Vadra said during the women-centric titled ‘Na Nayaki’ (I am a woman leader).

She alleged that Rs 1.5 lakh crore of public money has been looted in Karnataka.

“Think about some development that has to take place in Bengaluru for Rs 8,000 crore and Rs 3,200 crore is going into commission,” Vadra alleged.

Referring to the alleged police sub-inspector recruitment scam, Vadra said, "Nothing moves without paying bribes in Karnataka."

“There are shameful scams like the PSI scam where the police posts are being sold. You educate your children, the young boys and girls to get them jobs. Is this what you expect from the people in power?” the Congress leader asked.

She alleged that people have to pay bribes for borewells, driving licences, housing, transfers and almost everything related to government work.

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News Network
January 25,2023

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Ahmedabad, Jan 25: A court at Halol town in Gujarat's Panchmahal district on Tuesday acquitted 22 persons, accused of killing 17 members of Muslim community, including two children, for want of evidence in a case stemming from the 2002 post-Godhra communal riots in the state.

The court of Additional Sessions Judge Harsh Trivedi acquitted all the 22 accused, eight of whom died during the pendency of the case, defence lawyer Gopalsinh Solanki said.

"The court acquitted all the accused in the case of rioting and murder of 17 members of a minority community, including two children, in Delol village of the district for want of evidence, Solanki said.

According to the prosecution, the victims were killed on February 28, 2002, and their bodies burnt with an intention to destroy evidence. Communal riots had broken out in different parts of the state a day after a bogie of the Sabarmati Express was torched by a mob near Godhra town in Panchmahal district on February 27, 2002, killing 59 passengers, most of them 'karsevaks' returning from Ayodhya.

An FIR (first information report) was lodged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections pertaining to murder and rioting after the violence in Delol village. Another police inspector lodged a case afresh nearly two years after the incident and arrested 22 persons for their alleged involvement in the riots. The prosecution was unable to gather enough evidence against the accused persons, and even witnesses turned hostile, Solanki said.

The defence lawyer said the bodies of the victims were never found. Police recovered bones from an isolated place on the banks of a river, but they were charred to such an extent that the identity of the victims could not be established, he said.

"Because of lack of evidence, the court acquitted all the 22 accused, eight of whom died during the trial," he said.

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