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'Shameful! Athletes forced to hit the streets for justice'

April 26, 2023 16:21 IST
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Sakshi Malik

IMAGE: Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, and Sakshi Malik address a news conference as they take part in a sit-in protest demanding arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief, who they accuse of sexually harassing female players, in New Delhi. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik on Wednesday said it was a matter of shame that athletes who are honoured in the country for their success at the international level are now fighting for justice on the streets.

The veteran politician, who was the last Governor of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir, said he spoke to Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia on Tuesday night and promised to visit them at the protest site.


Country's top wrestlers resumed their protest at Jantar Mantar on Sunday, demanding the arrest of WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who they have accused of sexual exploitation and intimidation of women athletes.

"When our daughters win medals and unfurl the tri-colour, at that time very shamelessly, we invite them for tea to honour them and to click pictures with them, and today they are on road. We should drown in shame," Malik said.

"I appeal to all of you that you support them till their fight ends and this gathering should get bigger and bigger," Malik said while addressing the gathering as wrestlers continued to get support from various quarters.

The wheel-chair bound Malik said it was unfortunate that women wrestlers are being asked to provide evidence of sexual exploitation.

"It is not just your fight, it is a battle for dignity of our daughters. Chaudhary Charan Singh used to say that if a woman is complaining of sexual exploitation, she should not be questioned and no evidence should be demanded from her. We must accept and trust what they are saying."

"It should not have taken more than a minute (for Delhi Police) to file an FIR (against the WFI chief). You (wrestlers) will emerge victorious, the entire country is with you."

The 76-year-old Malik said history will remember these athletes for striving for eradication of corruption in wrestling.

"I am glad that you are fighting despite being under pressure. But now that the farmers are on your side, your victory is assured," he said referring to the support the wrestlers are getting from farmer organisations and 'khap' panchayats.

Numerous farmer organisations, khap leaders, politicians, and women's organisations have visited the wrestlers at the protest site in the last three days, lending their support.



Video: ANI

As the protest entered its fourth day since resumption on Sunday, the wrestlers, under watchful eyes of coach Sujeet Mann, began training at the protest site itself.

Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sangeeta Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Satyawart Kadiyan all began training at 7:30am and the session went on till 8:45am.

Asked if it's not risky to train on roads as it could lead to injuries to wrestlers, coach Mann said, "We have no option."

"It's out of compulsion that we are forced to train on road. What do we do? It's a year of Asian Games and World Championships, which is Olympic Qualifier, the wrestlers can't be out of line," Mann told PTI.

"There is no equipment, gym or mat, so whatever little we can do under the circumstances, we are doing. I asked them to run and we also did some man-to-man technique practice. We also have some dumbbells here, " he explained. 

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