Protesting wrestlers sat at Jantar Mantar, continuing to raise slogans and addressing gatherings about the fallacies of the Wrestling Federation of India for the third consecutive day.
Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Deepak Punia are among a large number of wrestlers who have been raising their voices against the ‘dictatorial functioning’ of the Federation and its president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
With chants of ‘ inqalab zindabad’ and ‘ abhi nahin toh kabhi nahin’ filling the air, the protesting wrestlers reinforced their commitment to their cause, saying they will not move from Jantar Mantar until their concerns are adequately addressed.
“We are trying. We’re having discussions at many levels. We will be speaking to the Sports Minister again at 6. We have put across all our concerns. If we can arrive at some solution, that would be good. If not, you will get to see wrestling mats here as we will come here and train tomorrow,” Phogat told the media on Friday.
“If this was something that could be solved in one meeting, it wouldn’t have become such a big matter. If we get assurances of safety for the athletes here and some indication that actual measures are being taken to solve our problems, then we will be satisfied,” she added.
Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is set to address a press conference soon but has said that he has no plans to resign.
“He says, Mooh kholunga toh tsunami aa jayegi (if I start speaking, a tsunami will follow), but when we speak, nothing is happening. After so much has happened, how is he still speaking so much? We are athletes of India. We will not move,” Phogat said in response.
“He won’t leave his post. Who gets ready to do that anyway? We will make him leave. Everyone loves sitting in a seat of power, but everyone’s feet will hurt when asked to stand,” she added.
Bajrang Punia and Phogat reiterated that there were no political motives of the protest against the Federation.
“I didn’t medal at Tokyo and I was in tears. Many allegations were leveled against me. At that time, PM (Narendra Modi) came forward and asked me to leave everything aside and wrestle. In many ways, I am here because of that gesture and that kindness. That was a bad time for me. If the country’s prime minister sided with one girl then, this is a conversation about the daughters of India,” Phogat said.
“I am here because I am aiming for an Olympic medal. Help me win a few of those and you won’t hear of this girl called Vinesh. This is not about politics. It’s a fight for dignity. After all our difficulties and how much we had to fall at people’s feet to get basics, it’s a fight against that,” she added.
Phogat revealed on Thursday that many wrestlers from around the country have gotten in touch with those protesting in New Delhi, narrating their own experiences of abuse to them. She added another instance on Friday.
“I got a call from a female wrestler. I won’t reveal details, but she’s definitely not from the state she claims to be. I have a 30-minute recording detailing the extent of harassment she has faced. A number of boys have called in and shared how they’ve slipped into depression because of the treatment meted out to them. These are against the Vice President. Complaints have been raised to the federations. I don’t want to share much here as the president himself might try to silence these. He says that he has not received any complaints, but the federation has received these complaints and the evidence of that is coming in,” she added.
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