Wrestlers drop idea of immersing medals after Tikait talk, give govt 5 days
There was high drama on the banks of the Ganga at Haridwar’s Har Ki Pauri on Tuesday (May 30), with weeping wrestlers threatening to immerse their hard-earned medals in the river, only to be deterred by farmer leader Naresh Tikait, who has sought five days’ time from them and taken away their medals.
Late in the evening, the wrestlers, protesting against the lack of action against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, whom they have accused of sexual misconduct against several female wrestlers, including a minor, left the Ganga ghats.
They gave an ultimatum to the Centre that they would return in five days if no action is taken against Singh by then. They said they would not immerse their medals in the Ganga until then.
Protest against police action
The wrestlers, who have been protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for more than a month in the second phase, after the assurances they were given after the first phase came to a nought, faced harsh police action on Sunday (May 28), when they tried to move towards the new Parliament building that was being inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Pictures of Delhi Police dragging them into buses and the wrestlers trying to fight them off went viral on social media and many former sportspersons and Opposition politicians slammed the government. On Tuesday, in protest against that police action, the wresters threatened to dump their medals in the Ganga at Haridwar and launch an indefinite hunger strike at India Gate.
In a message before leaving for Haridwar, wrestlers Sakshee Malikkh, Bajrang Punia, and Vinesh Phogat tweeted: “It seems these medals decorated around our necks have no meaning any more. The police and the system are treating us as criminals.”
“These medals are our lives, our souls. There will be no reason to live after throwing them in the Ganga today. So, we will stage a hunger strike until death at India Gate after that,” they added.
Tweets in support
Even as news agency PTI quoted police sources as saying that the wrestlers would not be allowed to protest at India Gate, as the national monument is not a site for demonstrations, the wrestlers reached Haridwar around 6 pm.
As they sat on the banks of the Ganga, weeping inconsolably, people crowded around them and started urging them to not take such a drastic step. It was reported that Tikait, too, had left for the holy city in Uttar Pradesh to talk them out of the shocking decision.
Meanwhile, support poured in for the wrestlers from all quarters. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi, “The whole country is shocked. There are tears in the eyes of the whole country. Now the Prime Minister should leave his arrogance.”
Former India cricketer Anil Kumble, too, tweeted in support of the wrestlers: “Dismayed to hear about what transpired on the 28th of May with our wrestlers being manhandled. Anything can be resolved through proper dialogue. Hoping for a resolution at the earliest.”
Shortly after 7 pm, Tikait arrived at Har Ki Pauri and took the medals away from the wrestlers, seeking five days for a possible resolution.
(With agency inputs)