Wrestlers protest
Chaotic scenes unfolded at the protest site on Sunday as wrestlers and police officials shoved and jostled, with the latter finally dragging them into buses | Video grab: Twitter

Opposition, sportspersons slam govt for crackdown on protesting wrestlers

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Several Opposition politicians and former sportspersons condemned Delhi Police’s dramatic detention of the protesting wrestlers on Sunday (May 28) as a “shame on the government”.

Top wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, and Bajrang Punia, were detained for alleged violation of law and order after they breached the security cordon while trying to move towards the new Parliament building for a planned women’s Mahapanchayat.

Congress leaders were scathing in their attack on the government. “The coronation is over — the ‘arrogant king’ is crushing the voice of the public on the streets!” (translated from Hindi) tweeted Rahul Gandhi.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi tweeted in Hindi, “The medals on the chest of the players are the pride of our country. With those medals and the hard work of the sportspersons, the country’s honor increase. The BJP government’s arrogance has grown so much that it is mercilessly trampling the voices of our women players under their boots. This is totally wrong. The whole country is watching the arrogance of the government and this injustice.”

Also read: Self-glorifying, authoritarian PM inaugurates new Parliament building: Congress

“Strongly condemn the way Delhi Police manhandled Sakshee Malikkh, Vinesh Phogat, and other wrestlers. It’s shameful our champions are treated in this manner,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted.

“Democracy lies in tolerance but autocratic forces thrive on intolerance and quelling of dissent. I demand they be immediately released by police. I stand by our wrestlers,” she added in the tweet.

The CPI(M) termed the police action as “shame on this government”.

“Delhi Police have detailed women wrestlers! Medal winning wrestlers bundled into buses and detained for fighting sexual harassment while man accused will be sitting in new parliament building. Shame!” the party tweeted from its official handle.

Chaotic scenes were seen at the protest site at Jantar Mantar as wrestlers and police officials shoved and jostled as Vinesh Phogat, her cousin Sangeeta Phogat, and Sakshi Malik tried to breach the barricades.

Vinesh provided a strong resistance against her detention and Sangeeta clung on to her while lying on the road as the struggle continued for a few dramatic minutes.

The police officials dragged and lifted them into buses along with several other wresters and their supporters. The wrestlers were pushed into buses and taken to different unknown locations.

The champion wrestlers had resumed their agitation against former Wresting Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on April 23, demanding his arrest for alleged sexual harassment of several women grapplers, including a minor.

Also read: Rituals at new Parliament building inauguration show country is regressing: Pawar

The police had reportedly warned the wrestlers not to move towards Parliament on Sunday but they went ahead, leading to the scuffle.

Rajasthan Congress MLA and 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games discus throw gold medallist Krishna Poonia, too, condemned the police action.

“The most shameful video of Indian sports and democracy. I condemn the manner in which police dragged our gold medallist wrestlers who have brought laurels for our country and in this fight for truth and justice, I stand with my sisters,” she tweeted.

TMC MLA and former India cricketer Manoj Tiwary wrote: “So, this is what you call #AzadiKaAmritMahotsav? Shame! The nation is with you #wrestlers!”

(With agency inputs)

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