By Amanpreet Singh
THE country’s top wrestlers on Thursday vowed to intensify their protest, saying that the Government has given them an assurance but no “satisfactory response” and they will lodge multiple FIRs against WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh if the Wrestling Federation of India is not disbanded immediately.
The wrestlers, who have accused the WFI President of sexual exploitation and intimidation, continued their dharna for the second day as more grapplers joined them in what they called was a fight to give “a new life to Indian wrestling.” Three-time CWG medallist and BJP leader Babita Phogat came to the protest site with a “message” from Government and assured the grapplers that their demands will be met as the athletes took turn to share their bad experiences.
Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ravi Dahiya pleaded for more support while young Anshu Malik narrated how WFI President’s presence in the players’ hotel in Bulgaria during the world junior championship last year made the women wrestlers uncomfortable. It may be noted that 21-year-old Anshu had not competed in that championship as she was injured.
A team of wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Anshu, Sakshi Malik, and her husband Satyawrat Kadiyan, was then called for a meeting with the government as they discussed their issues with Sports Secretary Sujata Chaturvedi, Director General SAI Sandip Pradhan and Joint Secretary (Sports) Kunal. During the one-hour meeting, the wrestlers were asked to end their protest and assured that their grievances will be addressed.
However, the wresters wanted a concrete and immediate action and decided to continue their protest. Later addressing the media, Vinesh did not disclose what transpired at the meeting but said, “Unfortunately we did not get a satisfactory response.”
“Yesterday, we had 1-2 victims amongst us but now we have 5-6 wrestlers, who were harassed (sexually). We can’t name them now, after all they are daughters and sisters of somebody. But if we are forced to disclose their identity, it will be a black day,” said Vinesh. Earlier in the day, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat, who arrived at the protest site in support of the wrestlers and wanted to speak, was asked to leave by the grapplers, saying they don’t want anyone to give their campaign a political colour.