After months of impassioned protest by Olympic wrestlers that drew national attention in India, the police on Thursday filed charges of sexual harassment and intimidation against a powerful ruling-party politician and former chief of India’s wrestling federation.
The wrestlers have accused the politician, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, of harassing at least seven young women, including a minor, over the course of a decade, starting in 2012.
Charges against him also include assault and stalking, and if convicted he could face up to five years in prison. Mr. Singh has denied the accusations against him.
The government announced a committee in January to investigate the claims, but months of inaction followed — a reflection, protesters say, of Mr. Singh’s political connections as a member of Parliament from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P.
Frustration with the lack of progress prompted some of India’s most accomplished wrestlers to begin a day-and-night protest in New Delhi. Late last month, the police violently dismantled their protest encampment, detained them and charged them with disrupting public order. In response, the wrestlers prepared to throw their medals, including some won in Olympic Games, into the Ganges in protest, but did not do so after intervention by community leaders.
Days after that, the wrestlers met with the country’s powerful home minister, Amit Shah, who promised them there would be a fair investigation.
Mr. Singh was not arrested in the course of the police inquiry, and it appears unlikely that he face arrest before he appears in court over the charges. Judges are set to begin hearing the case next month.
The charges were only a partial victory for the wrestlers, though. The Delhi Police Department, which is under the control of federal government, filed a separate report in connection with the allegation by the minor against Mr. Singh.
In that instance, the police said there was no “corroborative evidence” against Mr. Singh, and prosecutors sought to suspend the case, according to Suman Nalwa, a spokeswoman for the Delhi police. If that had not happened, Mr. Singh would have been arrested automatically under laws devised to protect minors.
Hari Kumar contributed reporting.
The New York Times