On a drama-filled day some of India’s best wrestlers accompanied by hundreds of supporters gathered on the banks of the Ganga, threatening to immerse their World and Olympic medals in the holy river but refrained after being convinced by Khap and farmer leaders who sought five days to address their grievances.
As per ANi report, Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia and Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat arrived at Har ki Pauri to protest the inaction against outgoing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has allegedly sexually harassed several women grapplers.
Sakshi, Vinesh and her cousin Sangeeta were seen sobbing as their husbands tried to console them, even as scores of their supporters formed a cordon around them.
The wrestlers stood for about 20 minutes in silence after reaching Har ki Pauri. They then sat on the banks of the river holding their medals and looking distressed.
Bajrang joined them after 40 minutes. Sombir Rathi, husband of Vinesh, was holding the Asian Games medals won by her wife. Sakshi was holding tightly the framed Olympic bronze medal she had won in 2016 in Rio.
The whole episode was reminiscent of the 1960 incident when the legendary Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio river to protest racial segregation in the US.
However, after spending an hour and 45 minutes, they returned after several khap and political leaders urged them not to take such an extreme step.
As the deadline for the immersion of the medals drew closer, senior farmer leaders Sham Singh Malik and Naresh Tikait sought five days’ time from the grapplers to resolve the issue.
“The khap leaders put their turbans before us and said ‘do not lose hope’. Keep the dignity of the turban and return. So we decided to wait,” said wrestler Jitender Kinha, who has been a part of the protesting group.
The wrestlers left without speaking with the media.
The United World Wrestling issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the detention of the wrestlers and criticising the “lack of results” in the investigations against Singh.
Wrestling’s governing body reminded the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) of its promise, made in April, to hold fresh elections for the WFI within 45 days.
“Failing to do so may lead UWW to suspend the federation, thereby forcing the athletes to compete under a neutral flag,” it warned.