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Rediff.com  » Sports » Yogeshwar Dutt, the man who wrestles and tweets

Yogeshwar Dutt, the man who wrestles and tweets

February 04, 2017 09:38 IST

In his most recent gesture, the champion wrestler refused dowry and took just ₹1 as shagun for his wedding

Yogeshwar Dutt

IMAGE: Yogeshwar Dutt has emerged as a hero outside the wrestling mat too. Photograph: PTI

His profile picture on Twitter shows him proudly displaying the bronze medal he won at the 2012 London Olympics.

In a country, where sporting heroes apart from cricketers are scarce, the medal obtained in the 60 kg freestyle wrestling event should be good enough for India to remember Yogeshwar Dutt as a national hero -- except that the 34 year old from Haryana's Sonepat district has emerged as much of a hero outside the wrestling mat as on it.

I decided on two things while growing up: I will excel in wrestling and I will not accept dowry

In his most recent gesture, which has won the hearts of millions, Dutt refused dowry and took just ₹1 as shagun for his wedding with Sheetal Sharma, Haryana Congressman Jaibhagwan Sharma's daughter.

'I saw my family struggle to collect dowry for the girls of the family,' Dutt was quoted as saying.

'As a result, I decided on two things while growing up: I will excel in wrestling and I will not accept dowry. My first dream has been realised and now it is time to keep my second promise.'

Yogeshwar Dutt

IMAGE: Yogeshwar Dutt and Sheetal Sharma during their engagement ceremony in Sonepat. Photograph: PTI

In the volatile space of Twitter, his actions gave way to contrasting reactions.

While many hailed him, some criticised him for taking even ₹1.

The most stringent criticism came from political analyst Tehseen Poonawala who said in one of his tweets, 'This ₹1 business by Yogeshwar Dutt being applauded is a tragedy. We are fighting the system of dowry & forget ₹1 even 1 paisa is incorrect.'

This ₹1 business by Yogeshwar Dutt being applauded is a tragedy. We are fighting the system of dowry & forget ₹1 even 1 paisa is incorrect

This crossfire on Twitter is only another one in a recent spate of controversies involving the wrestler, who has become one of the platform's most polarising figures in India.

It must be said in Dutt's favour that in a country where high-profile people are known to choose their words carefully, he has been refreshingly candid.

In April 2016, when Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was named the ambassador of India's 2016 Olympic contingent, Dutt wasted no time to lash out on his Twitter handle.

While his tweets did not name Khan, it was obvious that he was making a pointed reference to the actor having a wrestling-based movie up for release.

Khan's movie Sultan turned out to be a box-office blockbuster, and a month-and-a-half later when Dutt lost his first round bout in the 65 kg freestyle wrestling event in the Olympics, the actor's loyal fans took their anger out on the wrestler on Twitter.

Prior to this episode, Dutt hit out at the organisers of the programme on Afzal Guru in Jawaharlal Nehru University in February 2016.

He wrote on his Facebook page 'If Afzal Guru is a martyr, what should we call Lance Naik Hanumanthappa?'

Hanumanthappa was a soldier who died in February 2016 in an avalanche in Siachen.

His exploits in the wrestling arena and his nationalistic sentiments on social media platforms have led to Dutt being described as a true Indian patriot.

Even here though, the matter is a little ambiguous, Dutt was once photographed at a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) event in 2015, which was also attended by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

On social media, some tried to connect his statements on Salman Khan and JNU to his presence at this event.

Yogeshwar Dutt

IMAGE: Yogeshwar Dutt slumped to a shock defeat in the men's 65kg freestyle qualification round bout at the Rio Olympics. Photograph: Toru Hanai/Reuters
It remains refreshing that unlike most personalities in the public eye, he is ready to take a stand, whether one wants to agree or disagree with it.

In all this, one must not discard what a top sportsman Dutt has been.

His success has not come without its trials and tribulations, most notably the multiple injuries (knee, shoulder) that have threatened to end his career on more than one occasion.

Regardless of these setbacks, he remains one of the country's most pedigreed athletes: He won gold at the 2014 Asian Games as well as in the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Given his age and injuries, it is unclear how much high-level competition Dutt has left in him.

But it remains refreshing that unlike most personalities in the public eye, he is ready to take a stand, whether one wants to agree or disagree with it.

Shakya Mitra
Source: