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The Vinesh Phogat story is a chilling throwback to the Ruchika Girhotra case

Mohammad Bilal
Mohammad BilalJan 19, 2023 | 16:07

The Vinesh Phogat story is a chilling throwback to the Ruchika Girhotra case

Ruchika Girhotra (L) Vinesh Phogat (R). Photo: India Today/PTI

Star Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat in a bombshell revelation has levelled serious charges of sexual harassment against Wrestling Federation of India President and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. With fellow wrestler and Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik by her side, Phogat accused Singh of sexually assaulting female wrestlers for years.

Phogat said that she knows of at least 10-20 girls who have been sexually assaulted by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The star wrestler said that previously too, she has tried speaking up against the sexual harassment of female wrestlers but was silenced.

The explosive revelation: Vinesh Phogat not only targeted Singh but said that coaches employed at national camps also have been habitually exploiting national as well as international female wrestlers. Not only Phogat, Tokyo Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia has also alleged that Singh often slapped and abused wrestlers.

Narrowing her attack on Singh for exploiting girls, Phogat said that this exploitation is happening everyday. She said, "Why does the camp happen in Lucknow? The reason is that it's easy to exploit the girls. They trouble us so much. They get into our personal lives and relationships. They want to know everything."

Phogat was once on the brink of suicide, and her story bears uncanny resemblance to the case of Ruchika Girhotra.

14-year-old tennis athlete Ruchika Girhotra was sexually abused by a Haryana IPS officer in August 1990, and after severe mental harassment, killed herself in December 1993.

Vinesh Phogat (L) with fellow wrestler Sakshi Malik (R). Photo:PTI

What happened? On August 12, 1990, a young and promising tennis athlete, Ruchika Girhotra was sexually assaulted by Haryana IPS officer and Haryana Lawn Tennis President SPS Rathore in his office room in Panchkula. When Ruchika's family filed a complaint against Rathore, they were tortured by the IPS officer to the extent that Ruchika consumed poison and killed herself on December 29, 1993.

Though a complaint was registered against Rathore with then Haryana Chief Minister Hukam Singh and the Home Secretary, and a departmental inquiry was ordered and Rathore was even found guilty of the sexual assault, it served no purpose. The government changed in 1991, and Bhajan Lal Singh's Congress government derailed the investigation against Rathore.

From 1991 till 1999, Rathore was not only promoted in the department, he also managed to bring all the people in the Ruchika Girhotra case to their knees. Using his influence and power, he started harassing Ruchika's family.

The harassment: Ruchika was thrown out of her school without any valid reason.

  • Her brother Ashu was slapped with at least six cases of car theft. In October 1993, Ashu was illegally arrested by the Haryana Police and detained and tortured for two months. 
  • Not only her family; her friend Aradhna, who was the sole witness of sexual harassment against Ruchika, was also dragged to court numerous times.
  • Her father, Anand Prakash, who led the fight to the last, was transferred multiple times in his government job.
  • In the end, tired of the humiliation and torture, Ruchika consumed poison and died on December 29, 1993. Her brother was released after her death.

The promotions continued: Even after Ruchika's death, Rathore's promotion continued and in 1994, he was promoted to Additional DGP by the Bhajan Lal-led Congress government.

  • In May 1996, when Bansi Lal became the Haryana CM, Rathore was made the DGP.
  • June 5, 1998: Rathore is suspended by the Bansi Lal government in connection with a parole case regarding a detainee. 
  • August 21, 1998: A CBI probe is ordered in the Ruchika molestation case by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
  • March 3, 1999: Rathore is reinstated as Additional DGP by Bansi Lal government.
  • July 23, 1999: Om Parkash Chautala becomes Chief Minister.
  • September 30, 1999: Departmental inquiry exonerates Rathore in molestation case; he is promoted as DGP with retrospective effect from May 20, 1999.

October 10, 1999: Rathore made Haryana's DGP by the Chautala government.

SPS Rathore during a court hearing. Photo: AFP

Change of fortunes in 2000: The wheels turned against Rathore in November 2000, when the CBI, after its investigation in the case, filed the charge sheet.

  • In December 2000, Rathore was removed as Haryana DGP and sent on leave.
  • But the trial in the case went on for nearly a decade and Rathore was finally convicted by a Special CBI court on December 21, 2009. He was sentenced to six months in prison as the court had tried him only on molestation charge.
  • He appealed against the sentence. 
  • On May 25, 2010, he was arrested by the CBI. The High Court also extended his sentence from six months to 18 months.

The Ruchika and Vinesh Phogat cases: In both the cases, the accused holds a constitutional post, powerful enough to influence the case. 

In the Vinesh Phogat case, the accused Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has been a lawmaker since 1990. Singh was also in the news last year, when he slapped a 15-year-old wrestler on a stage in Ranchi. No action was taken against him back then.

In Ruchika's case too, the accused was a powerful person, and he used all tactics to play with the law. It was after nearly a decade that a charge sheet found him guilty and after 10 more years, he was handed a sentence of 18 months.

Last updated: January 19, 2023 | 17:06
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